New series Unladylike2020 will feature the fascinating stories of 26 female mavericks, many of which most history books tend to gloss over. In a time in which society strictly defined gender roles and laid out explicit expectations for what women were "supposed" to do, these women featured defied social norms in a major way. The documentary-style series looks deeper into the lives of powerful women like Bessie Coleman (the first Black person to earn an international pilot’s license) and Gertrude Ederle (the first woman to swim across the English channel), exploring the personal and professional challenges that they overcame to achieve their dreams.
The program, which is a special extension of PBS's popular American Masters series, will also feature exclusive interviews with the descendants of these heroes as well as commentary from historians and modern women who were impacted by the legacy of the Unladylike2020 figures. Rare archival footage will also be shown throughout the series.
Unladylike2020 is produced and directed by Charlotte Mangin, and she recruited stars Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife, Billions) and Lorraine Toussaint (Selma, Orange is the New Black) to narrate the project. Toussaint jumped at the opportunity to work on the series — as a woman who's faced her fair share of obstacles, the actress personally connects to its cause.
"I see so many parallels with the Unladylike2020 women," Toussaint shared in a statement to Refinery29. "So I celebrate the courage and daring of these women who made a way out of no way. I think this work is important for future generations – for girls and boys – including my daughter, so they appreciate those on whose shoulders we stand." Margulies mirrored the sentiment: "I have witnessed in my own life how acts of courage have the power to inspire change. The women profiled in Unladylike2020 were able to accomplish change against formidable odds. I am pleased to be a part of this project and am hopeful their stories will continue to inspire future generations as they have inspired me. "
Set to premiere on the American Masters YouTube channel tomorrow (on the 100th anniversary of the women's suffrage movement), Unladylike2020 will air an episode every Wednesday until August 26 — Women's Equality Day! The series is part of PBS's lineup of programs celebrating women, which includes new specials highlighting the work of writer Toni Morrison and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem.
Exclusive to Refinery29, here's your first look at the inspiring new series: