Helen Gibson, Pioneer Stunt Woman

There seems to be a common stereotype, fondly believed by too many people to count, that women in “the olden days” weren’t allowed to do…much of anything, really. That while not being squeezed into rib-cracking Victorian corsets (even when it wasn’t even the Victorian era, apparently) and dressed in twenty layers of clothing, they were basically confined to fainting couches or forced to stitch samplers. Why they weren’t just stuck in closets and taken out once in awhile to make sure they didn’t loosen those corsets is beyond me.

Based on my various attempts to comment on corset-related or otherwise women-in-olden-days-related threads on social media (said attempts being obviously authoritative and scientific), any sort of mild pushback on this black-and-white view is…surprisingly unwelcome. Of course women had a rougher time back in the day–of course they had less freedom and fewer options outside of marriage, as is patently obvious to anyone who takes a look at history. But *she puts forth meekly* that doesn’t mean it was abnormal for women to, you know, do things. Like ride horses, or play sports, or get jobs, or even own stores or patent inventions. Yes, even with corsets on. By the way, normal corsets weren’t that–

“What!” folks reply, shocked to the cores over such unwelcome and offensive information. “Are you trying to say women weren’t repressed? Because they were.” *Drops mic they carry around for just such occasions*

“Of course I’m not saying that–just that your idea of a ‘typical’ meek, seen-and-not-heard early 20th century woman is a little off the mark.” And here’s where I could’ve added: “Have you heard, for instance, of stuntwoman Helen Gibson?”

Still from To Save the Road (1916)
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Thoughts on “Wings”

Many people assume that early films were primitive, dull, turgid relics.  If they ever sat down and watched Wings, they’d realize that this is like saying Da Vinci’s paintings were “something a two-year-old could slap together.”

If you have even the slightest inkling of an interest in WWI or early aviation then you must, must, must see this film.  If you are impressed by great human achievements in general (on the order of “extreme danger and hard work in service of art”) then you are wasting precious time by not seeing this film.

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