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Struggles and Joys of Women Leading Creative Lives

Who Does She Think She Is documentary

“No matter what, I have a right to be in my studio doing this; it’s good, it’s good for my family, it’s good for me.” – Sculptor Janis Wunderlich

Artists are creative people regardless of their gender, of course, but women may face particular challenges, especially as mothers.

My title for this post is based on a description of the movie “Who Does She Think She Is?” – which emphasizes women who are mothers, although there are probably many creative women who choose not to be a parent.

The Facebook page says, in part, this is “a documentary film directed by Academy Award winning producer, Pamela Tanner Boll. The film follows the struggles and joys of five women trying to lead creative lives as artists while keeping up as parents and partners.

“For these women, art does not have to be ‘self-centered,’ and care-taking doesn’t have to be ‘selfless,’ and it is in fact the mix that gives them their vitality…”

Pamela Tanner Boll comments in an interview:

“I came to filmmaking in a rather circuitous way. I had been writing short stories and essays, as well as painting, for years. I wanted to tell the story of women who gave themselves permission to do creative work — even though that work is often without pay, is not considered “real work,” or is undervalued by society.

She says about making the movie: “It was extraordinarily easy to find wonderful subjects. Women of talent and passion are everywhere.”

The quote by Wunderlich (one of the artists in the documentary) is also from A Conversation with Pamela Tanner Boll, by Caroline M. Grant, Literary Mama, May 2009.

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From review by Pauline on CHICKS ROCK! :

“This documentary film follows the trials and tribulations of five women artists, and how they maintain the shaky balance between motherhood and art in their lives. It is the kind of movie everyone should see, but may not be able to because of limited media coverage.

“Who Does She Think She Is?” exposes the enduring sexism that continues to permeate the art world. I was unaware of this, until someone in the film asked random people outside of museums if they could name five women artists. No one could answer the question!

“I had a sinking feeling in my stomach when I realized that I couldn’t give a complete response either. My embarrassment turned to determination; I have to make an effort to learn more about those talented (and often unrecognized) women who see little of the artistic spotlight, as opposed to their male counterparts.”

The image at the top is from a trailer:

Learn more about the movie at the site

Purchase the DVD: Who Does She Think She Is?

Why not more women in the arts?

Germaine Greer addresses this question in her article: Women used to shrink from creating art. Now they’re taking over. And I think I know why.

“For most of my life I have been trying to understand why it is that women have not played a more active role in art. Why couldn’t women paint as well or better than men?

“If a few women could paint as well or better than men, why couldn’t more women do it?

“Eventually I arrived at a theory, which I offer for consideration. It goes like this: women, being generally more rational than men, are aware that life is more important than art.

“This is simple logic: art is a part of life, therefore art cannot be greater than life.

“As long as the art object was conceived as a monument to itself, women shrank before attempting it.

“Women who modify their environment every hour of every day, whether they are shaping their child’s damp hair, or twitching a blind, or choosing wallpaper, or dressing themselves with wit and ingenuity, are unexcited by the self-contained, self-regarding work of art.”  [See the article for more.]

Germaine Greer serves as Professor Emeritus of English Literature and Comparative Studies at the University of Warwick.

Her books include a biography of Ann Hathaway entitled Shakespeare’s Wife, and The Female Eunuch.

Filmmaker Caren McCaleb comments:

“The motherhood thing – I think of it like a marathon, except a marathon is over in a day. It’s an endurance test and it’s something you absolutely can’t stop for a second.”

“Part of what makes it really cool and interesting is almost anything [besides motherhood] you commit to, you can take a breather.”

Read about the documentary “Lost in Living” – “the story of four extraordinary women who share their personal triumphs and struggles as mothers and as artists” – in my post To Be Creative and A Mother.


Although acclaimed as an actor, Jamie Lee Curtis says she finds writing “way more” artistically satisfying for her than acting. Her multiple children’s books “address core childhood subjects and life lessons in a playful, accessible way,” her bio notes.

From my post Jamie Lee Curtis: Writing Is More Creatively Satisfying.

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Maybe you also would like to create books for children.

Children's Picture Books 101 courseOnline courses are a resource to help you develop those creative interests. One example:

Children’s Picture Books 101: What to Know Before You Write

– “Learn what makes these books unique so you can write your own picture book with confidence.”

Instructed by Denise Vega.

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Some related articles

A Few More Good Women – Academy Awards have been achieved by women since the 1940’s for editing, art direction, sound, special visual effects and costume design…

Women in architecture

Support for Gifted Mothers: America Is Not a World Leader

The Artist Is a Glamour Puss [NY Times]

Internal barriers, personal issues, and decisions faced by gifted and talented females.

Motherhood and creative work.

Kathryn Bigelow: Not a female filmmaker, but a filmmaker, period. – Bigelow was asked to join the board of a Women in Cinema Film Festival, and turned it down, politely, a representative of the festival noted: “asserting the fact that she was a filmmaker, period. Not a female filmmaker, but a filmmaker full stop.”


Struggles and Joys of Women Leading Creative Lives

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2015). Struggles and Joys of Women Leading Creative Lives. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Dec 2015
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.