Saturday, June 15, 2013

When Women Were Not Welcome to Apply For a Job at the Walt Disney Studios

Thanks God, things have changed for women since 1938 but if you were a woman and artist at that time and wishing to work at Walt Disney's Animation Studio the least we can say is that the WDS was doing everything they could to avoid any women application for a job at the Studio, as this Walt Disney Productions letter below proves it.

A read of this June 7, 1938 letter makes pretty clear what women can do at that time at the WDS: "Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men." Discriminatory? It sounds to me and i think that even a phrase like this will be unthinkable now, and probably even forbidden by law...

Let's go further and see how they leave no hope. Not only the person who wrote the letter was clear that "For this reason girls are not considered for the training school" but also that
"The only work to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with India ink filling in the tracing on the reverse side with point according to directions."

And just in case you intended to travel all across United States and come directly to the Studios, although the letter said that "it's necessary that one appear at the Studio, bringing samples of pen and ink and water color work..." it ended with "...It would not be advisable to come to Hollywood with the above specifically in view, as there are really few openings in comparison with the number of girls who apply".  It couldn't be more clear, and in two words it mean: please stay home.

To be honest, it's possible that the Studios didn't needed any new talent at that time but it's also obvious that if you were a man you had more chances to be welcome and do an interesting career at Walt Disney's Animation Studios. That said, it didn't stopped the WDS to have some great women artists like Mary Blair, for instance... but as i said in the opening, thanks God, since 1938 things have changed for women. The only problem is that now Disney has closed the 2D Animation Studios...

Your thoughts?

Pictures: copyright Disney


Jess Iglehart said...

I study animation at CalArts and we have one of these letters hanging on the wall of our video studio. Very Bizarre.

Anonymous said...

Were you expecting that Disney would be immune to the biases that were the cultural norm of the day?

Alain Littaye said...

Not really!