"The coming of the projectionettes”: Women’s work and changing modes of spectatorship in British cinemas in the Second World War

Harrison, Rebecca (2016) "The coming of the projectionettes”: Women’s work and changing modes of spectatorship in British cinemas in the Second World War. Feminist Media Histories, 2 (2). pp. 47-70. ISSN 2373-7492

[thumbnail of Harrison_Article] Microsoft Word (Harrison_Article) - Accepted Version
Download (76kB)


This article investigates women’s roles as projectionists, and transformations to women’s spectatorship, in Britain during the Second World War. Between 1939 and 1945, the British Cinema Exhibition Association (CEA), among other organisation, encouraged women to train as cinema projectionists when the government conscripted men into the armed forces. The ‘projectionettes’ experienced unequal pay, often chaotic training programmes and patronising, sexualised portrayals in contemporary press reports. Yet, without female operators, British cinemas would not have been able to operate during the war. Here, the paper traces histories of the ‘projectionettes’ and their daily, working lives through archival materials and the trade press to consider how women’s labour contributed to British film exhibition. Moreover, by situating the women projectionists’ work in a broader narrative about gendered spectatorship, the article proposes that owing to changing labour conditions, women gained new perspectives throughout the movie theatre. Thus, the paper argues that investigating women projectionists can help us re-examine histories of British film exhibition, points-of-view, and the proliferation of ‘women’s cinema’ in wartime.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published as "The Coming of the Projectionettes: Women's Work in Film Projection and Changing Modes of Spectatorship in World War II British Cinemas", Rebecca Harrison, Feminist Media Histories, Vol. 2 No. 2, Spring 2016; (pp. 47-70) DOI: 10.1525/fmh.2016.2.2.47 © 2016 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press's Reprints and Permissions web page, http://www.ucpress.edu/journals.php?p=reprints. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by [the Regents of the University of California/on behalf of the Sponsoring Society] for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center.
Uncontrolled Keywords: british cinema,women projectionists,exhibition,second world war,spectatorship
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2016 09:17
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2022 14:31
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/57698
DOI: 10.1525/fmh.2016.2.2.47

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item