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CHECK OUT the WOMEN IN MEDIA RESEARCH section of the website featuring an overview and biographical information of pioneering female figures in the field and discussion of their contributions to early communication studies.

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"Out of the Question: Women, Media, and the Art of Inquiry preserves and presents an important and neglected history about the role women research assistants served in establishing media effects as a part of social science research. The film is aesthetically appealing as well as narratively engaging, and I belive the documentary serves as an important cotribution to communication studies."
--Mary M Dalton, PhD
Review for University Film and Video Association
New Orleans, LA
Click here to read what other viewers are saying about the film!
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This website both supports the documentary film Out of the Question: Women, Media, and the Art of Inquiry and provides biographical and bibliographical information about a group of pioneering women in the fields of communication and media research.

The documentary follows the lives of five American women active in the fields of sociology, media, and communication research in the 1940s and after. They are representative figures in a generation of mostly-unsung women who collectively made important contributions to the social scientific understanding of media, audiences, propaganda, social influence, voting behavior, and celebrity at a time when those phenomena were relatively little understood. From growing up in the Depression to graduating from college while the nation was mobilized for World War II, these women were presented with opportunities and constraints in crafting careers in male-dominated occupations. They tell their stories in this rich and sensitive documentary directed and produced by award-winning filmmaker Naomi McCormack. In the process, they narrate a kind of history-from-the-margins about a founding moment in media research, and address topics of continuing concern to students, researchers, and citizens today.

Thelma Ehrlich Anderson, Joan Doris Goldhamer, Gladys Engel Lang, Thelma Herman McCormack, and Yole Granata Sills were among dozens if not scores of women who had an important hand in establishing media and communications research as fields of inquiry in the 1930s and 1940s. These women have generally dropped from view, in histories that emphasize the more famous men they worked with or for, including Robert Park, Ernest Burgess, Paul Lazarsfeld, Robert K. Merton, and C. Wright Mills. This larger group of women ranged from those who earned doctorates and wrote important books or articles; through research associates given independent research tasks and sometimes garnering second authorship, to interviewers, coders, stenotypists, and secretaries (see Women in Media Research).

Anderson, Goldhamer, Lang, McCormack, and Sills take us to a different era of mass media, social science, and gender. They tell personal stories about influential institutions like Columbia University's Bureau for Applied Social Research, the Voice of America, and the Social Science review Council as well as anecdotes about the development of research methods like the focused interview. More generally, they give us a sense of what it was like to come of age as college-educated women among what has been called "the greatest generation."

The film will appeal to students, scholars, and others with interests in the history of media and communication  studies, the history of sociology, women's studies, and American life in the middle of the twentieth century.
This website picks up where the film left off, further exploring the lives of these five women, uncovering the stories of more women in the field, and exploring some of the methods and key studies in early communication research. The information on the website focuses on the development of communication as a field of study and early media research in the United States from 1930s-1960s.

We welcome suggestions and feedback. Click here to send us your comments.

Unless otherwise noted, all website content was written by Peter Simonson and Lauren Archer