AFI Catalog Curriculum: Women They Talk About

Ideas can be absorbed with more facility from motion picture screens than from books or lectures. My job now is to supplant the blackboard with the screen.” — Lois Weber

In 2019, the American Film Institute’s AFI Catalog of Feature Films embarked upon a three-year initiative titled “Women They Talk About” to support unprecedented empirical research about the role of gender throughout the first century of the American film industry (1893-1993). With generous grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and The David and Lura Lovell Foundation, the project repurposed AFI’s uniquely comprehensive academic data to secure early female filmmakers in the historical canon.“Women They Talk About,” named after the 1928 feature film, was specifically designed to use data as a narrative tool to engender the true story of women as forerunners in the industry.

To reach the goal of bringing the work of female pioneers into the cultural conversation, AFI worked in collaboration with Lois Weber scholar Dr. Shelley Stamp to create curricular resources for grades 9-12 with three core objectives:

  1. for students to develop research skills by using the AFI Catalog and other online databases like WFPP;
  2. for students to critically analyze the film Shoes (1916) by Lois Weber;
  3. for students to explore the important role that women played in the development of the motion picture industry.

This curriculum is accessible for free at and at the National Endowment for the Humanities EDSITEment! website.

The curriculum asks students to read a chapter from Anthony Slide’s book The Silent Feminists: America’s First Women Directors (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996). The chapter, “The Universal Women” (p. 52-61) is made freely available here on WFPP with the author’s permission.

Read more about Women They Talk About on our Partner Projects page.