A Look at Lois Weber, America’s First Woman Filmmaker

We continue to celebrate National Women’s History Month with our spotlight on Lois Weber. Lois Weber (June 13, 1879 – November 13, 1939) whose birth name is Florence Pietz is known as America’s first woman filmmaker. She began her career working as an actress alongside her husband, Phillips Smalley after the two had worked together in the theatre. They began working in motion pictures around 1907, often billed under the collective title “The Smalleys.” In 1913 she began directing films. She is the first American woman to direct a full-length feature, the Rex production of The Merchant of Venice in 1914.

Lois Weber, Female Film Director

Image source: The New York Times

By 1916, Weber worked at Universal and was one of the highest paid directors in the world. She formed her own production company in 1917, and her career flourished until the early 1920’s. Lois’ films focused on serious, controversial issues like birth control and abortion, which brought her into constant conflict with distributors. She directed over 100 films but sadly is a forgotten pioneer in the Hollywood motion picture and film industry. Today we remember her as we celebrate the life and contributions of Lois Weber.

Happy #NationalWomensHistoryMonth