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SILENT MOVIES & MUSIC | Women's suffrage and the early age of filmmaking with Gerhard Gruber

On November 12, 1918 the Austrian Provisional National Assembly passed a law that included the right to vote for women - even though it was only exercised for the first time at the parliamentary election on February 19, 1919. As part of our year-long commemoration program we will honor and address this landmark decision from 100 years ago in an entertaining and artistic way, namely with a selection of silent movies about the women’s suffrage movement in the 1910s.

The Austrian silent movie pianist Gerhard Gruber will present these movies, accompanying them with the piano himself.

Women's suffrage and the early age of filmmaking

At the beginning of the 20th century the fight of women for equality and the right to vote also conquered the cinema. The women’s suffrage movement took place in the streets: Women, many of them members of the bourgeoisie, organized themselves and demanded to be part of the democratic election process! By 1913 more than 1000 suffragettes were imprisoned because of their political fight. Besides caricatures in newspapers also newsreels documented the marches and protests of the women’s movement. At this time also countless comedies were produced, which looked at the emancipation movements of suffragettes.

To celebrate women’s effort for equal rights and to commemorate 100 years of women’s suffrage in Austria the silent movie pianist Gerhard Gruber takes you on a time journey back to the area of silent movies.

When: April 12, 2018 – 7.00 pm: Reception with wine
Where: Austrian Cultural Forum/Embassy of Austria, 3524 International Court, NW, Washington, DC. 20008

"The first golden age of the film comedy started in 1910 when the women’s rights movement expanded and the whole world started to rethink gender roles, love, social relations and attitudes towards domestic responsibilities.

In the vaults of international archives we discovered a unique legacy: Films that introduced the first generation of the female comedy starring for example Tilly and Sally, Cunégonde, Mistinguett, Rosalie, Lea and Gigetta…

Deriving from a time about a hundred years ago, the films are not only high-class historic documents, but they are still remarkably relevant until today. Fresh, witty, surprising and casual in their approach, they definitely arouse some laughter. They demonstrate how the new mass medium, the cinema, a highly popular entertainment form around 1910, distinctively related  to the existential concerns of the audience, how it offered new roles and counter-models  - and of course wonderful entertainment."  

– Gerhard Gruber

Gerhard Gruber has been a pianist for silent movies since 1988. His approach to being a silent movie pianist is improvisation, whereby every time a new and unexpected dialogue with the audience emerges.

More historical background on how the right to vote for women was established in Austria you can find in an article, published by our colleague Hannes Richter from the Press and Information Service of the Austrian Embassy.