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15 Women of Cinema History You Should Know

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You know Spielberg, Scorsese, Lucas, and Hitchcock. But did you know that the success of each of these iconic directors depended on a lesser-known woman behind the scenes? Dig into the hidden history of film and discover the women who shaped cinema into what it is today. 

1. Margaret Booth // The first film editor

Because of the hands-on nature of film editing, early Hollywood considered it women's work, like sewing. "Cutters" were often working-class women willing to take low pay to be a part of filmmaking. But despite the sexism surrounding them, this position allowed these female film lovers a unique place to make critical choices about a film's final cut. Booth was not only one of the earliest pioneers of the craft, but also the one for whom the term "film editor" was coined.

Right out of high school in 1915, the Los Angeles native got a $10 a week job working under Birth of a Nation director D.W. Griffith as a patcher, eventually making her way up to negative cutter. By the time the controversial filmmaker moved to the East Coast, Booth was in complete charge of print production, managing everything from inspection to cutting to shipping the prints out. Booth would then get a job at the newly formed MGM, where her expertise was quickly recognized by the studio's head of production, Irving Thalberg. Together the pair would watch and discuss dailies, and Booth's insightful contributions inspired Thalberg to call her a "film editor," a move that would forever leave the common term "cutter" behind.

She went on to cut a long list of films, including 1935's Mutiny on the Bounty, which earned her only Oscar nomination. In 1978, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences awarded Booth an honorary Oscar for "her exceptional contribution to the art of film editing in the motion picture industry."

2. Verna Fields // Mother Cutter

The Missouri-born Fields was introduced to moviemaking when her father, Sam Hellman, moved the family to Hollywood to pursue his passion for screenwriting. She started out as a sound editor, but by 1960 had begun to edit feature films. She went on to be a major influence on several major filmmakers, cutting such career-defining films as George Lucas's American Graffiti, Peter Bogdanovich's Paper Moon, and Steven Spielberg's Jaws.

Many filmmakers remember Fields fondly for her gentle direction and warm support through the stressful business of filming and post-production. For his part, Spielberg credits the impeccable restraint of the use of his movie monster to "Mother Cutter," as Fields was affectionately called. The young director was so eager to get the robotic shark, Bruce, on camera that he repeatedly pushed for shots to linger. But Fields knew just when to cut away to keep this Great White from going from fearsome to fake. Fittingly, Jaws became the film that's best defined her legacy. It not only won Fields her only Oscar (see below), it was also the final film she cut. She went on to become a high-ranking studio exec, and the VP of feature production at Universal.

3. Melissa Mathison // Mother of E.T.


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This Los Angeles native might be best known for being the wife of Harrison Ford from 1983-2004, but Melissa Mathison's greatest contribution to cinema is actually crafting the screenplay for one of the most beloved sci-fi movies of all time, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

Mathison was with Ford on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1980, when its director, Steven Spielberg, shared a seed for a new movie he wanted to make. Mathison had just seen success with her screenplay for 1979's The Black Stallion, and both she and Spielberg felt her flair for capturing child-like wonder was a great fit for his premise of a boy befriending an extraterrestrial. From this rough sketch of the story, Mathison created Elliott, wounded from his father walking out, annoyed by his pesky little sister Gertie, and inspired by an unexpected friendship. E.T. not only became a massive hit and cultural phenomenon, but also earned Mathison an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. She'd later reteam with Spielberg on Twilight Zone: The Movie and 2016's The BFG. Mathison passed away in 2015, at the age of 65.

4. Leigh Brackett // Queen of The Space Opera

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As a young woman, she got her start writing science fiction and pulp crime fiction, both genres of literature that were looked down on as lowbrow. But Brackett didn't care about perception, nor mind that some thought her nickname "The Queen of The Space Opera" was a slam. Instead, she stood up for the genre she adored, declaring, "These stories served to stretch our little minds, to draw us out beyond our narrow skies into the vast glooms of interstellar space."

Embracing the freedom she felt writing about out-of-this-world outlaws, she became a mentor to Ray Bradbury and an inspiration to George Lucas. After making Star Wars, the celebrated director was handed a copy of one of Brackett's books and told, "Here is someone who did the Cantina scene better than you did." He apparently agreed, hiring Brackett to pen the first draft of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Sadly, she passed away before the sci-fi smash was finished. But this film built on a cinema legacy that she'd already begun, having previously scripted such classics as The Big Sleep (1946) and Rio Bravo (1959).

5. Thelma Schoonmaker // Scorsese's Not-So-Secret Weapon

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Though she is arguably the most famous film editor working, Schoonmaker originally intended to work in politics. But having grown frustrated when her anti-apartheid opinions ruffled feathers in job interviews with the U.S. government, she answered a newspaper ad that offered on-the-job training as an assistant film editor. While taking a film course at New York University, she volunteered to help a student whose negatives had been damaged; that student happened to be Martin Scorsese. So began a collaboration that has stretched across nearly five decades and counting.

This soft-spoken woman has cut such testosterone-driven dramas as Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, The Departed, and The Wolf of Wall Street, just to name a few. She still does the most menial aspects of editing, including screening and cataloguing every take, and overseeing subtitle translation, and her precision has scored her seven Oscar nods, and three wins. Her final cuts have won praise from Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Juliette Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, and many more. But most importantly, through all this her work has influenced and inspired an untold number of filmmakers, editors and artists.

6. Dorothy Arzner // Inventor of the Boom Mic

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She got her foot in the door as a typist for Paramount Pictures in 1919. And by 1927, Arzner had made her first of 20 films with Fashions for Women. She was one of a handful of women directing films in the 1920s and 1930s, as well as the first woman to join the Director's Guild of America. While others struggled with the medium's transition from silent film to sound, Arzner thrived and innovated. So as not to distract skittish film star Clara Bow with the new challenge sound brought, Arzner dangled a microphone from a fishing rod, pioneering the first boom mic.

She went on teach Francis Ford Coppola, and earn a star on the Walk of Fame. But she is best remembered for creating films by women and about women, including the Katharine Hepburn-fronted Christopher Strong, Joan Crawford's The Bride Wore Red, and her most famous feature, Dance, Girl, Dance, which starred Lucille Ball and Maureen O'Hara. In this drama, Arzner made history by having her heroine—a ballerina turned burlesque performer—spin on her audience and break the fourth wall, scolding both those in the movie and in the theater for objectifying her "the way your wives won't let you." You can watch this groundbreaking scene below:

7. Edith Head // Film Fashion Pioneer

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Her fashion sense defined decades of American cinema, but before she was draping starlets in the most elegant dresses to hit the silver screen, this step-daughter of a mining engineer earned her Master of Arts degree in romance languages and worked as a school teacher. She began taking art classes, and decided to apply for a job as a sketch artist—despite not being able to draw people. To get around this, she got her entire art class to contribute costume design sketches. As she would later say, "When you get a class of 40 to give you sketches, you get a nice selection." Despite lacking any relevant experience, Head scored her first movie gig, working as a sketch artist at the future Paramount Studios. By 1938, she was the studio's chief designer. There she laid the groundwork for becoming Hollywood's most heralded costume designer.

In a career that spanned nearly 60 years, she worked on hundreds of films, including such iconic offerings as All About Eve, Rear Window, Sabrina, The Sting, and Roman Holiday. Head thrilled with fashion whether working in black and white or in color. Between 1949 and 1978, she earned a record-setting 35 Academy Award nominations, winning eight Oscars. Directors sought her for their films as fiercely as they would Hollywood's hottest leading ladies. And she became a household name between offering patterns for fashion magazines and making regular appearances on Art Linkletter's daytime television show in the 1950s, where she'd offer fashion advice for the common woman.

8. Alice Guy // The world's first female director

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Before American filmmakers like D.W. Griffith had even touched a motion picture camera, this Paris-born pioneer was laying the groundwork for narrative film's visual language, and inspiring future auteur Alfred Hitchcock. After witnessing the Lumière brothers' demonstration of their cinematograph, Guy implored her boss, Léon Gaumont, to let her use his shop's cameras to make a movie of her own.

In 1896, she helmed La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy), one of the first narrative films ever made and the first of 750 films she made for the Gaumont Film Company. She was one of the first to employ groundbreaking techniques like the split screen, double exposure, and film tied to sound. She's also been credited with inventing the close-up (an honor popularly but mistakenly bestowed to Griffith). And after moving to New York, she started her own company, Solax, the biggest pre-Hollywood studio in America.

Yet despite her prolific output and artistic innovations, her contribution to the emerging medium was largely ignored because of Gaumont's ego. In 1930—after Guy had left his employ following 10 years of bringing his business grand attention and acclaim—Gaumont published a book detailing the history of his company and its innovations. He none too subtly left Guy's contribution out completely. He later assured her this grievous omission would be amended in future printings. It was not. Still, 350 of her films survive today, allowing for her work to be rediscovered, along with its influence on modern cinema.

9. Lois Weber // Political provocateur

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A protégé of Alice Guy's, this Pennsylvania-born filmmaker became the first American woman to helm a full-length feature film with 1914's The Merchant of Venice, though she co-helmed it with her husband W. Phillips Smalley. But Weber soon earned a racier historical marker, becoming quite possibly the first non-pornographic American director to display full-frontal female nudity in her allegorical offering Hypocrites (a.k.a. The Naked Truth), which was banned in Ohio and so incensed the mayor of Boston that plans were made to give the character a classical gown.

Weber never shied away from controversial content. Buoyed by the success of Hypocrites, she went on to make movies that addressed issues of poverty, worker's rights, capital punishment and even the importance of birth control. Film scholar Shelley Stamp has called Weber's Hand That Rocks The Cradle (1917) "one of the most forceful films ever made in support of legalizing birth control.”

In 23 years, Weber made more than 130 films, became the only female member of the Motion Pictures Directors Association, and earned the honorary post of mayor of Universal City. And she did it all while writing, directing and making her own creative calls. Film historian Anthony Slide declared, “Few men before or since have retained such absolute control over the films they have directed—and certainly no women directors have achieved the all-embracing, powerful status once held by Lois Weber.”

10. Alma Reville // Lady Hitchcock

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You know Alfred Hitchcock. Even his silhouette has become iconic. But few know how much his work and persona were shaped by his wife. Reville got her start in movies serving tea to the studio elite of England's production scene. But through the 1920s and '30s, this diligent and observant film lover worked her way up to director's assistant, screenwriter and editor. She met Hitch on the job, and he hired her to cut Woman to Woman in 1923—a job offer she initially walked away from, telling Hitchcock the salary was "inadequate." He came back with a better offer, and she accepted. The pair later wed and moved to Hollywood, where they would make the movies that would make him a legend.

The cult of Hitchcock is so intense that Reville's role in his success has long been ignored. Though credited in 19 of his films—including as screenwriter on Shadow of a Doubt and Suspicion—it's on 1960's Psycho where she had the most important impact, despite not being credited at all.

When cutting that crucial shower scene, it was Reville's eagle eye that spotted a few errant frames that needed to be slashed, lest audiences see actress Janet Leigh inhale. Beyond that, Hitchcock was adamant that there be no music played over it. He refused even to listen to Bernard Herrmann's suggested score for the scene. But Reville convinced her stubborn husband to watch the cut with the music, and so one of the most famous scenes in Hollywood history was cemented.

When accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1979, Hitchcock himself recognized Reville's influence on his work and life, saying, "I ask permission to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation, and encouragement, and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor. The second is a scriptwriter. The third is the mother of my daughter, Pat. And the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen. And their names are Alma Reville."

11. Marion E. Wong // Chinese-American Trailblazer

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In a time where Hollywood was anything but diverse, this San Francisco-born Chinese-American paved her own way. In 1916, the 21-year-old Wong founded her Mandarin Film Company so she could create her first (and regrettably only) silent film, The Curse of Quon Gwon: When Far East Mingles With The West. Wong was determined to authentically present her culture to an American public that was only seeing Chinese people presented as cartoonish or cruel stereotypes.

She made this short film with an all-Chinese cast and all-Chinese company, while writing, directing, producing, casting, costume designing and starring herself. Little wonder the American press was fascinated by Wong, calling her “energy personified” with “imagination, executive ability, wit and beauty.” Unfortunately, even with such great buzz, Wong could not convince distributors or theater owners to take a chance on her film. Failing to secure a release, it seems Wong abandoned her Hollywood aspirations. For decades the film was thought lost. But in 2005, documentarian Arthur Dong uncovered two of its reels in the basement of the Chinese American Historical Society in San Francisco. The following year, the Academy Film Archive restored these reels, and The National Film Registry included The Curse of Quon Gwon for its importance in the history of representation in American cinema.

12. Esfir Shub // The Mother of Compilation Film

After a stint in constructivist theater, this Russian twentysomething got into movie making re-cutting Hollywood films so they'd be suitable to screen in her homeland. This experience, plus working with Soviet Russian filmmaker and theorist Sergei Eisenstein, proved formative for Shub.

In 1927, she became a pioneer of documentary filmmaking with The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, the first compilation documentary ever made. As historian Betsy A. McLane explained, "Nothing like Shub’s films had existed before them, and her work remains among the finest examples of the compilation technique." Previous editors, like Dziga Vertov, were making films more like montages and would freely manipulate footage to get across their vision, but Shub was more interested in the history rather than poetry.

Shub detailed the history of her nation from 1912 to 1917, relying heavily on archival footage. This was a near Herculean task that demanded she spend two months looking through 60,000 meters of film—much of which was damaged—to cull together the first visual record of the Russian Revolution.

13. Fatma Begum // India's first female director

Her career began on the stage, and then transferred to the silver screen as silent films overtook India. She not only became one of India's biggest silent film stars, but was also the mother to three more: Zubeida, Sultana and Shehzadi. As many actresses would do after her, Begum used her pull and prestige to start a movie production company of her own, Fatma Films.

In 1926, Begum became the first female director in Indian cinema with Bulbul-e-Paristan. The film was a family affair, with both of her daughters, Zubeida and Sultana, starring. Sadly, it is lost to history, but traces left behind tell us that Begum was more than ambitious and groundbreaking; she was also a genre film pioneer. Bulbul-e-Paristan was a big-budget fantasy epic that touted special effects and was set in fairyland, one of the first of its kind.

14. & 15. Tressie Souders and Madame E. Touissant Welcome // The first female African-American directors

Women's contribution to the history of film has long been hidden, ignored or lost. And this shameful tradition has clouded the conclusion of which filmmaker deserves the title of "first female African-American film director." But it can be narrowed down to two contenders. The first is Kansas City, Missouri's Tressie Souders, who wrote and directed A Woman's Error in 1922. The film was declared by the Black press outlet The Billboard “the first of its kind to be produced by a young woman of our race” and was praised for its veracity to the black experience. Regrettably, the only traces of the film or Souders' career can be found in press clippings that are nearly 100 years old.

The other contender is the elegantly named Madame E. Touissant Welcome, who was born Jennie Louise Van Der Zee, sister of celebrated African-American photographer James Van Der Zee. It seems the love of the lens was in her blood, as she too took to film to make a movie about the black soldiers of World War I. However, no prints survived and film historians have had to guess at a release date, positing it between 1919 and 1922. The conjecture of this date has led to a lot of debate. But more important than who was first is how both of these women used the new medium to speak for their communities and experience in an era where both were too often ignored.

This post originally appeared in 2015.

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The Plucky Teenage Stowaway Aboard the First American Expedition to Antarctica
The Ohio State University Archives
The Ohio State University Archives

Documentary filmmaker and journalist Laurie Gwen Shapiro came across the name "William Gawronski" in 2013 while researching a story about Manhattan's St. Stanislaus, the oldest Polish Catholic church in the U.S. In 1930, more than 500 kids from the church had held a parade in honor of Billy Gawronski, who had just returned from two years aboard the first American expedition to Antarctica, helmed by naval officer Richard E. Byrd.

The teenager had joined the expedition in a most unusual way: by stowing aboard Byrd's ships the City of New York and the Eleanor Bolling not once, not twice, but four times total. He swam across the Hudson River to sneak onto the City of New York and hitchhiked all the way to Virginia to hide on the Eleanor Bolling.

"I thought, 'Wait, what?" Shapiro tells Mental Floss.

Intrigued by Billy's persistence and pluck, Shapiro dove into the public records and newspaper archives to learn more about him. She created an Excel spreadsheet of Gawronskis all along the East Coast and began cold-calling them.

"Imagine saying, 'Did you have an ancestor that jumped in the Hudson and stowed away to the Antarctic in 1928?'" Shapiro says. She got "a lot of hang-ups."

On the 19th call, to a Gawronski in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, an elderly woman with a Polish accent answered the phone. "That boy was my husband," Gizela Gawronski told her. Billy had died in 1981, leaving behind a treasure trove of mementos, including scrapbooks, notebooks, yearbooks, and hundreds of photos.

"I have everything," Gizela told Shapiro. "I was hoping someone would find me one day."

Three days later, Shapiro was in Maine poring over Billy's papers with Gizela, tears in her eyes.

These materials became the basis of Shapiro's new book The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica. It's a rollicking good read full of fascinating history and bold characters that takes readers from New York to Tahiti, New Zealand to Antarctica, and back to New York again. It's brimming with the snappy energy and open-minded optimism of the Jazz Age.

Shapiro spent six weeks in Antarctica herself to get a feel for Billy's experiences. "I wanted to reach the Ross Ice barrier like Billy did," she says.

Read on for an excerpt from chapter four.

***

As night dropped on September 15, Billy jumped out of his second-floor window and onto the garden, a fall softened by potatoes and cabbage plants and proudly photographed sunflowers. You would think that the boy had learned from his previous stowaway attempt to bring more food or a change of dry clothes. Not the case.

An overnight subway crossing into Brooklyn took him to the Tebo Yacht Basin in Gowanus. He made for the location he'd written down in his notes: Third Avenue and Twenty-Third Street.

In 1928 William Todd's Tebo Yacht Basin was a resting spot— the spot—for the yachts of the Atlantic seaboard's most aristocratic and prosperous residents. The swanky yard berthed more than fifty staggering prizes of the filthy rich. Railroad executive Cornelius Vanderbilt kept his yacht O-We-Ra here; John Vanneck, his Amphitrite. Here was also where to find Warrior, the largest private yacht afloat, owned by the wealthiest man in America, public utilities baron Harrison Williams; yeast king (and former mayor of Cincinnati) Julian Fleischman's $625,000 twin-screw diesel yacht, the Carmago; General Motors president Alfred P. Sloan's Rene; shoe scion H. W. Hanan's Dauntless; and J. P. Morgan's Corsair III. The Tebo Yacht Basin's clubroom served fish chowder luncheons to millionaires in leather-backed mission chairs.

Todd, a great friend of Byrd's, lavished attention on his super-connected pal with more contacts than dollars. He had provided major funding for Byrd's 1926 flight over the North Pole, and helped the commander locate and refit two of the four Antarctic expedition ships for $285,900, done at cost. Todd loved puffy articles about him as much as the next man, and press would help extract cash from the millionaires he actively pursued as new clients; helping out a famous friend might prove cheaper than the advertisements he placed in upmarket magazines. Throughout that summer, Byrd mentioned Todd's generous support frequently.

Two weeks after the City of New York set sail, the Chelsea, the supply ship of the expedition, was still docked at the Tebo workyard and not scheduled to depart until the middle of September. Smith's Dock Company in England had built the refurbished 170-foot, 800-ton iron freighter for the British Royal Navy at the tail end of the Great War. First christened patrol gunboat HMS Kilmarnock, her name was changed to the Chelsea during her post–Royal Navy rumrunning days.

Not long before she was scheduled to depart, Byrd announced via a press release that he was renaming this auxiliary ship, too, after his mother, Eleanor Bolling. But the name painted on the transom was Eleanor Boling, with one l—the painter's mistake. As distressing as this was (the name was his mother's, after all), Byrd felt a redo would be too expensive and a silly use of precious funds. Reporters and PR staff were simply instructed to always spell the name with two ls.

As Billy eyed the ship in dock days after his humiliation on board the New York, he realized here was another way to get to Antarctica. The old, rusty-sided cargo ship would likely be less guarded than the flagship had been.

As September dragged on, Billy, back in Bayside, stiffened his resolve. No one would think he'd try again! On September 15, once more he swam out during the night to board a vessel bound for Antarctica.

Since his visit two weeks prior, Billy had studied his news clippings and knew that the Bolling was captained by thirty-six-year-old Gustav L. Brown, who'd been promoted weeks earlier from first mate of the New York when Byrd added the fourth ship to his fleet. Billy liked what he read. According to those who sailed under Brown's command, this tall and slender veteran of the Great War was above all genteel, and far less crotchety than the New York's Captain Melville. Captain Brown's education went only as far as high school, and while he wasn't against college, he admired honest, down-to-earth workers. Like his colleague Captain Melville, Brown had begun a seafaring life at fourteen. He seemed just the sort of man to take a liking to a teenage stowaway with big dreams.

Alas, the crew of the second ship headed to Antarctica now knew to look for stowaways. In a less dramatic repeat of what had happened in Hoboken, an Eleanor Bolling seaman ousted Billy in the earliest hours of the morning. The kid had (unimaginatively) hidden for a second time in a locker under the lower forecastle filled with mops and bolts and plumbing supplies. The sailor brought him to Captain Brown, who was well named, as he was a man with a mass of brown hair and warm brown eyes. The kind captain smiled at Billy and praised the cheeky boy's gumption—his Swedish accent still heavy even though he'd made Philadelphia his home since 1920—yet Billy was escorted off to the dock and told to scram.

A few hours later, still under the cover of night, Billy stole back on board and was routed out a third time, again from the “paint locker.”

A third time? The Bolling's third in command, Lieutenant Harry Adams, took notes on the gutsy kid who had to be good material for the lucrative book he secretly hoped to pen. Most of the major players would score book deals after the expedition; the public was eager for adventure, or at least so publishers thought. The catch was that any deal had to be approved by Byrd: to expose any discord was to risk powerful support. Adams's book, Beyond the Barrier with Byrd: An Authentic Story of the Byrd Antarctic Exploring Expedition, was among the best: more character study than thriller, his grand sense of humor evident in his selection of anecdotes that the others deemed too lightweight to include.

Billy was not the only stowaway that September day. Also aboard was a girl Adams called Sunshine, the "darling of the expedition," a flirt who offered to anyone who asked that she wanted to be the first lady in Antarctica. (In the restless era between world wars, when movies gave everyone big dreams, even girl stowaways were not uncommon.) Brown told a reporter that Sunshine had less noble aspirations, and soon she, too, was removed from the Bolling, but not before she gave each crew member a theatrical kiss.

As the early sun rose, Captain Brown called Billy over to him from the yacht yard's holding area where he had been asked to wait with the giggling Sunshine until his father arrived. The captain admired Billy's gumption, but it was time for the seventeen-year-old to go now and not waste any more of anyone's time.

As Lieutenant Adams recorded later, "Perhaps this matter of getting rid of Bill was entered up in the Eleanor Bolling log as the first scientific achievement of the Byrd Antarctic expedition."

*** 

From THE STOWAWAY: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica by Laurie Gwen Shapiro. Copyright © 2018 by Laurie Gwen Shapiro. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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Art Lovers in England, Rejoice: France's Famous Bayeux Tapestry is Coming to the UK
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One of France’s most prized national treasures, the Bayeux Tapestry, is officially heading to England for exhibition. The loan will mark the first time the fragile 11th century work has left France in nearly 1000 years, according to The Washington Post.

French president Emmanuel Macron announced news of the loan in mid-January, viewed by some as a gesture to smooth post-Brexit relations with Britain, ABC reports. The tapestry depicts the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, a historically important event replete with guts and glory.

Stretching for 210 feet, the Bayeux Tapestry’s nine embroidered panels tell the tale of Harold, Earl of Wessex, who swore an oath to support the right of William, Duke of Normandy, to the English throne once King Edward (a.k.a. Edward the Confessor) died without an heir. But after Edward's funeral at Westminster Abbey, Harold breaks his oath to William so he could be crowned king instead. Believing he was the rightful ruler, William—today remembered as William the Conqueror—decides to wage war and ultimately defeats Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

The historical narrative has endured for centuries, but the tapestry's provenance has been lost to time. Experts think that the artwork may have been created in England, shortly after the Battle of Hastings, although it’s unclear who designed and embroidered the scenes. Its original owner, Bishop Odo of Bayeux, the half-brother of William the Conqueror, may have commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry. He became Earl of Kent after the Battle of Hastings, and this new title would have afforded him access to skilled artisans, The Guardian explains.

The Bayeux Tapestry is currently on display in the town of Bayeux in Normandy. It likely won’t leave France until 2020, after conservators ensure that it’s safe to move the artwork. According to The Telegraph, the tapestry might be be displayed at the British Museum in 2022.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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