Back in 1974, the women’s movement was gaining nationwide momentum; Ms., of course, was at the epicenter of the revolution. Having gained respect and recognition as a print publication, Ms. wanted to go a step further and reach a wider audience with a television special. In June of that year, the magazine collaborated with Dallas’s public broadcast station to bring the program Woman Alive! to the American public. The mini-series featured prominent women such as Ms. cofounder Gloria Steinem and feminist comedian Lily Tomlin, as well as various short documentaries that profiled everyday women and issues central to the movement.
In 1975, Woman Alive! shifted networks and partnered with New York’s PBS channel, WNET/13, and became a regular TV series. Thanks to a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the channel produced and broadcast 10 half-hour episodes in 1975, then five in 1977, each one celebrating women’s empowerment through subjects ranging from women in politics and sports, to job discrimination and gender differences. The New York Times called the series “powerful, provocative, moving and funny.” And the show found itself in great company on WNET/13, featured alongside other programs celebrating women, from artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, to filmmakers, to up-and-coming talent such as Susan Sarandon, Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep.
Now, almost 40 years later, that era at WNET/13 is being celebrated as part of the station’s four-part series devoted to its 50th anniversary. The show that airs tonite at 9 p.m., Pioneers of THIRTEEN: The ’70s—Bold and Fearless, focuses primarily on women and feminism, including original clips from Woman Alive! It only airs locally in New York, but the entire series will be available online after the initial broadcast.
Though the clips may seem dated by today’s TV standards, the pride and charisma is still palpable.