One in this series on the performing arts. This recorded stage production, based on the book "Growing Up Female in America" by Eve Merriam, focuses on the lives of six noteworthy women from American history, with dialogue taken from their diaries and letters. The program begins with clips from several other Broadway Theatre Archive plays, including "Death of a Salesman," "Awake and Sing!", "Journey of the Fifth Horse," "Hogan's Goat," "Home," "Paradise Lost," "A Touch of the Poet," "Uncommon Women and Others," "The Eccentricities of a Nightingale," and "The Taming of the Shrew." Following this, the six women take the stage and discuss their lives and work, focusing in particular on gender roles and restrictions. Elizabeth Gertrude Stern talks about her strange sense of relief at her father's death, explaining that he was a rabbi's assistant and had strict views about sin and redemption with which she came to disagree, wanting to analyze ideas on her own. Her father felt that she should leave high school and marry, but she chose to finish her education and take dance lessons, eventually marrying a doctor, Leon Thomas Stern, who encouraged her to do "what made her happy." When her husband fell ill with influenza, she worked at a department store to support her family and found joy in the work, but then left the position and grew bored again. She ended up writing articles for a magazine, however, pleased to be active and earning money.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, whose father was a Congressman, talks about feeling like a "criminal" merely for being female, explaining that she studied Greek, Latin and other subjects after her brother's death, wanting to prove herself to be at least as competent as a boy. When she married, she found joy in "reigning supreme" in the household and excelled at maintaining order, eventually having sons and moving to Seneca Falls, New York. She later felt "discontent" with her limited life, but then was pleased to finally have a baby girl after several boys, describing how she kept up her busy daily schedule all through her labor pains. Maria Mitchell explains that her interest in science started a young age as she worked alongside her astronomer father, and she describes balancing her housework duties with her own experiments with telescopes and observation of stars and meteors; eventually she discovered a comet which was then named after her. She ponders the difficulties of being female in a patriarchal society, concluding that the extra challenges are beneficial to one's growth.

Anna Howard Shaw talks about her love of books and being called an "idler," explaining how she was sent to live in a log cabin with her female relatives and had to work hard for survival, eventually realizing that she wanted to be a preacher and go to college. She studied elocution, recalling her nervousness at her first public speech, and her name was mentioned briefly in the newspaper. Her family disliked her chosen career and offered to put her through college if she gave up preaching, so she went her "solitary way" and continued, then describing her experiences traveling alone and being threatened by a male carriage driver, on whom she was forced to pull a gun to protect herself, proving that she had "grit."

"Mother" Mary Jones talks about losing her four young sons and her husband to yellow fever, after which she nursed others struck by the plague and then turned her attention to workers' rights, joining the Knights of Labor and assembling an "army of women housekeepers" to intimidate miners who had crossed picket lines, noting happily that they were effective without bloodshed. She also worked for child labor rights, representing children who were often injured as they worked in mills and factories, and eventually lived to be nearly a hundred years old. Eliza Southgate talks about attending finishing school and writes letters to her parents, pondering women's "pliability of temper" and stating that her aspirations are different from a man's, though admitting that she might like to pursue a career in law. She develops an interest in the "steady" Mr. Walter Bowne, whom she eventually marries, and she discusses their married life together in New York. When she grows ill, she is forced to return to the South and leave her children behind, and she talks about her sadness in being separated from them and receiving no letters, eventually dying at age twenty-five. The six women close the program with final comments and then exit the stage together. Commercials deleted.


  • DATE: August 2, 1978 9:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:03:20
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: B:87187
  • GENRE: Drama
  • SERIES RUN: PBS - TV series, 1972-


    • Jac Venza … Executive Producer
    • Judy Kinberg … Producer
    • Richmond Crinkley … Producer
    • Jack Hofsiss … Director, Arranged for the stage by
    • Eve Merriam … Based on the book by, Arranged for the stage by
    • Paula Wagner … Arranged for the stage by
    • Jack Feldman … Music by
    • Kevin Hosten … Musician
    • Scott Kuney … Musician
    • Lisa Kirchner … Singer
    • Maureen Anderman … Cast, Anna Howard Shaw
    • Jackie Burroughs … Cast, Maria Mitchell
    • Carol Kane … Cast, Eliza Southgate
    • Kaiulani Lee … Cast, Elizabeth Cady Stanton
    • Jan Miner … Cast, "Mother" Mary Jones
    • Dianne Wiest … Cast, Elizabeth Gertrude Stern
    • Walter Bowne
    • Leon Thomas Stern