9to5: The Story of a Movement

Karen Nussbaum of 9to5.

Oscar-winning filmmakers Julia Reichert & Steven Bognar look back at the history of the Working Women’s Movement in 9to5: The Story of a Movement.

Make no mistake that the American Factory filmmakers are contenders once more.  The movement inspired hit film 9 to 5, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in December.  Appropriately, Dolly Parton’s song is played during the closing credits.

It’s often said that you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.  I think this is rather appropriate.  It’s important to know our history for better or worse.  August 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of women receiving the right to vote but this is just one end of the equation.  It’s not enough to have the right to vote but equality in the workplace.  At the start of the 9 to 5 movement, the equality wasn’t in the work place.  Hell, forty years after the release of 9 to 5, there still isn’t equal pay for equal work.  Maybe this film will lead to women truly earning actual equality in the workplace!  Sadly, we’re just not there yet as unfortunate as this may be.

This film is the story of how secretaries took to the streets in the 1970s.

What the working women of the 1970s wanted was simple enough:

  • Better pay
  • Job descriptions
  • Respect
  • Advancement opportunities
  • An end to sexual harassment

One would think that this would be easy but no, it wasn’t.  The Working Women’s Movement would go further beyond Boston and become a national movement.  They weren’t afraid of utilizing humor when it came to getting press attention.  Their work, of course, would inspire the aforementioned movie starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lilly Tomlin.

Even as we watch the film today, there remains work to be done.  It’s a shame that this film wasn’t made sooner because there’s a lot that we can take away from viewing the film.  There is still income inequality across the country in more ways than one.  Looking at my profession of film criticism, it’s more common to find a straight white male holding down a job than it is to find a woman or minority.  Even as we look at the country as it is in 2020, there’s racial inequality.

9to5: The Story of a Movement explores the birth of the Working Women’s Movement but there remains so much work left to do.

DIRECTORS:  Julia Reichert & Steven Bognar
FEATURING:  Ellen Cassedy, Karen Nussbaum, Mary Jung, Jane Fonda

9to5: The Story of a Movement held its virtual world premiere during AFI DOCS 2020. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.