Documentary Recommendations Part 2: Women’s Rights in the United States

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As it’s Women’s History Month, it is important to take the time to reflect on the many incredible women who have made a tremendous impact on the world. One way to do this is by watching documentaries exploring the herstory. The following is a list of documentary recommendations on the women’s rights movement in the United States.

Women in Politics & History of Women’s Rights movement in the US

Women’s participation in the political arena has become an increasingly relevant topic in recent years. The underrepresentation of women in government has been a persistent issue, but there has been some progress toward gender equality in politics and grassroots movements!

▶️Amend – The Fight for America Episode 4: This documentary is worth watching in its entirety 🙂 In particular, episode 4 explains the women’s suffrage movement. I recommend this as the first in your documentary journey on women’s rights!

Amend: The Fight for America | Episode 4 | Netflix

Even though <Amend> touches on this a bit, I recommend watching videos about the suffrage of women of color.

When voting rights didn't protect all women
Black Women and the Right to Vote | The History You Didn't Learn | TIME

▶️She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is a 2014 American documentary film about some of the women involved in the second wave feminism movement in the United States. It was the first documentary film to cover feminism’s second wave.

She's Beautiful When She's Angry - FULL DOCUMENTARY - VO ENG + SUB ESP

▶️Feminists: What Were They Thinking?: It takes a look into the women’s movement of the 1970s through the collection of feminist portraits captured by photographer Cynthia MacAdams. 40 years later we look at the culture then and now.

Feminists: What Were They Thinking? | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

▶️ Knock Down The House: Then, let’s jump forward to the 2010s. This is one of my favorite documentaries! It tracks the four female candidates — each driven by personal experience and hardship — enter the 2018 race for Congress, challenging powerful incumbents for a spot at the table and a voice in government. This documentary follows their campaigns.

Knock Down The House | FULL FEATURE | Netflix

▶️ Becoming: Becoming is an intimate look into the life of former First Lady Michelle Obama during a moment of profound change, not only for her personally but for the country she and her husband served over eight impactful years in the White House. The film offers a rare and up-close look at her life, taking viewers behind the scenes as she embarks on a 34-city tour that highlights the power of community to bridge our divides and the spirit of connection that comes when we openly and honestly share our stories.

Becoming | Official Trailer | Netflix

▶️ RBG: At the age of 85, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a lengthy legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. But the unique personal journey of her rise to the nation’s highest court has been largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans – until now. RBG explores Ginsburg’s life and career.


▶️Someday – The long fight for a female president: Through the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, women in politics underwent the rocky process of teaching the country that they could be equally effective and competent leaders as men, a process that occurred in parallel at workplaces around the country. They dismantled stereotypes, named and condemned sexual harassment, and slowly erased the novelty of female decision-makers, at least at the legislative level. Their work is our inheritance.

Someday: The long fight for a female president

▶️Becoming bell hooks: Explore the life and legacy of Kentucky-born author bell hooks, who wrote nearly 40 books and whose work at the intersection of race, class and gender serves as a lasting contribution to the feminist movement. Learn how bell’s childhood in Hopkinsville and her connection to Kentucky’s “hillbilly culture” informed her views and her belief that feminism is for everybody. The one-hour documentary features selections read by Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer and interviews with feminist activist Gloria Steinem, Kentucky writers Crystal Wilkinson and Silas House, bell’s younger sister Gwenda Motley and many others.

Becoming bell hooks | Teaser | KET

Sexual Harassment and Abuse

▶️ Seeing Allred: Gloria Allred has devoted 40 years to asserting and protecting the rights of women, overcoming personal trauma, media scrutiny, and powerful men.

Seeing Allred | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

▶️Weinstein: The inside story of how Harvey Weinstein allegedly sexually harassed and abused dozens of women, and the elaborate ways he tried to silence his accusers.

As Court Overturns Weinstein's NY Conviction, Revisit Other Accusers' Accounts (full documentary)

Fighting with Representation/Underrepresentation/Misrepresentation

▶️Mercury 13: Mercury 13 tells the remarkable true story of the women who fought for their place in the stars.

Mercury 13 | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

▶️This Changes Everything: An examination of sexism in the Hollywood film industry, the film interviews a variety of actresses and women filmmakers on their experiences in the industry.

This Changes Everything 2018

▶️Half the Picture: Women and men attend film schools in equal numbers, but women direct only 4% of top-grossing feature films in the US. Why are women largely shut out of this prestigious, lucrative, and culturally influential profession? High-profile women directors including Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle In Time), Lena Dunham (“Girls), Jill Soloway (“Transparent”), among others, offer candid, unfiltered, and often humorous tales of their careers in Hollywood, while experts on gender inequality destroy the myths that have allowed discrimination in Hollywood to thrive.

Half The Picture | Amy Adrion | Ava DuVernay | Trailer

▶️Miss Representation: Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Miss Representation exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film draws back a curtain to reveal a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see – how the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls make it difficult for women to feel powerful and achieve leadership positions.

Miss Representation Trailer (2011 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection)

Abortion and Reproduction Rights

▶️Reversing Roe: 45 years after it revolutionized abortion law in America, the landmark 1973 US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade is once again at a crossroads. Reversing Roe depicts the state of abortion and women’s rights in America.

Reversing Roe | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

▶️Personhood (Policing Pregnant Women in America): Through the eyes of a young mother who was forcibly detained while pregnant and denied her constitutional rights, PERSONHOOD reframes the abortion debate to encompass the growing system of laws that criminalize and police pregnant people.

Personhood: Policing Pregnant Women in America (2020) | Official Trailer HD

▶️The Jane: It tells the revelatory story of a group of unlikely outlaws. Defying the state legislature that outlawed abortion, the Catholic Church that condemned it, and the Chicago Mob that was profiting from it, the members of “Jane” risked their personal and professional lives to support women with unwanted pregnancies in the pre-Roe v. Wade era.

The Janes | Official Trailer | HBO

To understand U.S. abortion bans across the states, please check out these videos. It is short but very informative. You can also see the current Abortion Access Dashboard by Caitlin Myers.

How US abortion policy targets the poor | 2020 Election
How abortion bans make inequality worse

I hope these documentaries would help broaden your understanding of the women’s rights movement in the United States and the struggles many women have faced in pursuing gender equality. So, let’s take the time to watch one or more of these documentaries during Women’s History Month to honor the brave women who have made a difference in the world 🙂

  • March 8, 2023