Documentary filmmaker Martha Wheelock will be filming Advanced Dance I students this week to include in her latest film, a biopic on the life and influence of women’s suffragist Inez Milholland in the early 20th century.
As a young adult, Milholland assumed a key role in the National Women’s Party and led countless pro-suffrage parades and marches.
She believed women’s votes could help rid society of its civil service fallacies, such as poverty and child mortality. She was a dedicated fighter for women’s rights and a role model for women of the early 1900s, though she is not widely known, Wheelock said.
Milholland spent her last days traveling through America, giving 50 speeches in 24 days as part of a National Women’s Party rally tour.
She collapsed midway through her Los Angeles address. This is one of the scenes the dancers will be depicting.
“Milholland faints, almost dies on the podium from the exhaustion and illnesses she was sustaining. Instead of giving up, [despite her sickness], she went ahead and tried to deliver her speech,” Wheelock said. “This is a very dramatic scene, but it only is a minute. An actress could not really fall as beautifully as a dancer.”
Milholland passed away a few days after the incident at age 30, after having devoted the majority of her life to women’s movements.
“I wanted to use young women, who represent the future, to show that Inez’s spirit goes on in us today, whether we know this or not,” Wheelock said. “The message is that we are all activists when we see an injustice, an inequality. Those women knew it was wrong, unequal, undemocratic for women not to have the vote. Thousands worked for the vote, and I wanted to involve [the dancers] in the story.”
Martha Wheelock retired from teaching to focus on women’s history film making and has produced movies about the suffrage movement and other topics.