Public Media Salutes Trailblazing Women During Women’s History Month

March 1, 2020

UNLADYLIKE2020 collage of influential women throughout history

From its beginnings, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has supported public media content celebrating the life and stories of women making significant contributions to our society.  Through compelling storytelling and innovative community engagement activities, public media stations and producers uplift women’s voices and their important role in American life. 

Women’s History Month on public media kicks off with the launch of American Masters: Unladylike2020, a series highlighting women of diverse backgrounds who broke barriers during the Progressive Era, at the turn of the 20th century and their modern-day counterparts. Funded by CPB, Unladylike2020 spotlights changemakers in 26 documentary short films premiering on Wednesdays, March 4 through August 26. The series will culminate in an hour-long American Masters special as part of PBS’ summer-long celebration of female trailblazers in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

Some of the women featured include little-known heroines like Bessie Coleman, the first African American to earn an international pilot's license; Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Native American woman physician who also founded a hospital on the Omaha Reservation; Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress; Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel; Sissieretta Jones, the first African American woman to sing opera on the main stage at Carnegie Hall; and Lois Weber, the first woman to direct a feature-length film.

Unladylike2020 Highlights

With CPB support, 11 local public media stations, many located in the birthplaces or communities of accomplishment of Unladylike2020 women, will work with community partners to present screenings of the short films, host panel discussions, and other community engagement events to celebrate the accomplishments of the women profiled in the series and to honor their local modern-day counterparts. The stations include PBS Utah (Salt Lake City, UT); WNET (New York, NY); KQED (San Francisco, CA); VPM (Richmond, VA); WCNY (Syracuse, NY); WHYY (Philadelphia, PA); Georgia Public Broadcasting (Atlanta, GA); NET (Lincoln, NE); SDPB (Rapid City, SD); MontanaPBS (Missoula, MT); and WSBE (Providence, RI).

NET and History Nebraska will host a screening in Lincoln of shorts about Nebraska natives Picotte and Grace Abbott, an advocate for children’s rights and the highest ranking women in government in the 1920s, followed by a panel discussion featuring Unladylike2020 director Charlotte Mangin and humanities scholars discussing the women’s significance to Nebraska history. NET will also feature local content produced about the life of Picotte.

South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB), in partnership with the South Dakota Historical Society, and the Heritage Center of the Red Cloud Indian School, will record activities at the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation for broadcast. Events at the reservation will include screenings of Unladylike2020 shorts profiling American Indian women, and presentations by local historians and artists, including traditional Lakota cultural performances and student art projects.

VPM will work with Girls For A Change and Junior Achievement USA to host three screenings for junior high and high school students of color in Richmond. Local women who mirror some of the same careers featured in the series will share their stories through panel discussions and an interactive learning experience.

Beginning this month, PBS LearningMedia will offer the short films from the Unladylike2020 series in U.S. history curriculum materials for grades 6-12 on suffrage, civil rights, women and STEM, and workers’ rights, as well as teacher’s guides for each of the 26 women featured.

To learn more about the women featured in the series, the accompanying educational resources, screening events and impact campaign, visit or

The Unladylike2020 digital shorts can be accessed via the American Masters YouTube channel.

In addition, WORLD Channel will present encore presentations of public media specials throughout the month from popular programs like American Masters, American Experience and Independent Lens, and a host of other specials highlighting accomplished women in diverse fields. Visit WORLD Channel for listings, streaming information, and an engagement toolkit highlighting women from American history.

Titles include:

Leah Chase: The Queen of Creole Cuisine – Saturday, March 7

Revolution of the Heart: The Dorothy Day Story – Monday, March 9

American Experience: Annie Oakley – Friday, March 13

American Masters: Louisa May Alcott – Friday, March 13

It’s All in the Game: The Leta Andrews Story – Saturday, March 14

Miriam Beerman: Expressing the Chaos – Monday, March 16

Georgia O’Keeffe: A Woman on Paper – Monday, March 16

Ahead of Time—The Extraordinary Journey of Ruth Gruber – Wednesday, March 18

American Masters: Maya Angelou – Saturday, March 21

American Masters: Ursula K. Le Guin – Monday, March 23

American Masters: Harper Lee – Monday, March 23

Medicine Woman – Thursday, March 26

American Masters: Janis Joplin – Saturday, March 28

American Experience: Amelia Earhart – Sunday, March 29

American Masters: Lorraine Hansberry – Monday, March 30

Also available online through PBS are:

For Sama – this Frontline documentary tells the story of one woman’s journey through love, war and survival during the Syrian conflict from a mother’s point of view.

“Women, War & Peace II” – an-all female cast of directors present never-told-before stories of women in a four-hour program.

#InspiringWoman – A CPB-funded year-long campaign celebrating the powerful, creative and innovative women in our lives. Two American Masters documentaries, Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise and Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes Feeling Heart, inspired online dialogue around themes central to the lives of the two heroines: artistic expression, academic success, active community engagement and acceptance of difference. A web series highlights contemporary diverse women blazing new trails in their industries.

More Women’s History Month programming can be found on local public media stations. Check local and online listings and streaming apps. In addition, a special collection of historic content is available for free streaming through the American Archive for Public Broadcasting and the Library of Congress