Toward a History of Women Projectionists in Post-war British Cinemas

Richard, Wallace; Harrison, Rebecca and Brunsdon, Charlotte (2018). Toward a History of Women Projectionists in Post-war British Cinemas. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 15(1) pp. 46–65.



Cinema projection is usually understood to be a male-dominated occupation, with the projection box characterised as a gendered space separate from the more typically feminine front-of-house roles. Although this is a fairly accurate representation, it risks eliminating all traces of women’s labour in the projection box. Previous work by David R. Williams (1997) and Rebecca Harrison (2016) has addressed the role of women projectionists during wartime, and this article begins to excavate a hidden history of women projectionists in a peacetime context. The article uses oral testimony from two women – Florence Barton and Joan Pearson – who worked as projectionists in the mid-twentieth century. Their accounts are presented in the article as two portraits, which aim to convey a sense of the women’s everyday lives in the projection box, as well as think about implications that their stories have for our understanding of women’s roles in projection more broadly. Of particular significance to both Barton and Pearson are the relationships that they had with their male colleagues, the possibilities afforded for career progression (and the different paths taken by the women) and the nature of projection work. The women’s repeated assertions that they were expected to do the same jobs as their male counterparts form a key aspect of the interviews, which suggest there is scope for further investigation of women’s labour specifically in projection boxes and in cinemas more generally.

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