Exhibit: Women Who Dared
BiographiesMultimediaBy CityAbout WWD Jewish Gender Activism
What She Said
  Margaret Lazarus
  Social Activist Filmmaker
  Boston WWD Event 2001
  Born in 1949
  Makes documentary films on social issues such as domestic violence, homophobia, and images of women in the media
Biography  up to top

Born in 1949, Margaret Lazarus was raised in Queens, the only child of two schoolteachers. She grew up with her immigrant grandparents nearby. Her grandmothers taught her to cook Jewish food, and her grandfather sometimes included her in his Workmen's Circle activities. Her parents, active in the teachers' union, were also involved in anti-racist work until the Ocean Hill-Brownsville School strike brought these causes into conflict. From her family's activism and approach to Judaism, Lazarus developed a Jewish identity based on values of social justice.

Lazarus attended Vassar College, where she pursued her interest in painting and art. Because she was concerned with the social content of art, she went to graduate school in Communications and Media at Boston University. At BU, Lazarus met Renner Wunderlich, her partner in life and in work. After early jobs producing public affairs segments on commercial television, Lazarus and Wunderlich formed their own independent film company so they could express their political views, uncensored. In 1973, they made their first film, "Taking Our Bodies Back," on the women's health movement. Feedback on this successful project led them to their next film, "Rape Culture."

In the past twenty-five years, they have pursued their political interests to make many documentary films on topics including: homophobia ("Pink Triangle"), images of women in the media ("Killing Us Softly," "Still Killing Us Softly," and "Beyond Killing Us Softly"), domestic violence ("Defending Our Lives"), trauma and recovery ("Strong at the Broken Places"), nuclear threat ("The Last Empire"), and the socialist leader Eugene Debs ("Eugene Debs and the American Movement"). In 1994, they won an Academy Award for "Defending Our Lives."

Lazarus runs a non-profit documentary film company, Cambridge Documentary Films and lives in Belmont, MA with Wunderlich and their two sons.

What She Said  up to top
I think culturally I'm very Jewish... And I feel very connected to the whole tradition of arguing the world, of arguing the truth ...More  Audio available
My dad was a member of the Young Socialists in college and my parents were very active in the [teacher's] union. And they were also very active in progressive - what we now term anti-racist - work... ...More 
It was a very unique opportunity for women. There had just been a lot of FCC regulation and the people were challenging licensing galore ...More 
I think the best you can impart [to your kids] is the ability to question and challenge authority ...More 
The women's movement sort of drew me back a lot to my social issues roots as a child. Seeing the connections with the civil rights movement, but also seeing the connections with economic analysis of things ...More 
Again, [The Last Empire, documentary about nuclear threat] was an example of us finding stuff that we were obsessively concerned with and making documentaries about it ...More 
I was interested increasingly in women, their representation in media, and also in how women intersect with medicine ...More 
The film [Taking Our Bodies Back] took off and people wrote to us from all over the United States ...More 
I think part of the biggest challenge has been the failure of so many of the movements that I've worked on to really do anything but be co-opted ...More  Audio available
[The most rewarding thing is] seeing some of the direct change that has happened. For example, some of the films we made were really before their time ...More 
Multimedia  up to top
Photographs Photographs
Audio Clips Audio 
Answer - Jewish values (Margaret Lazarus)
Answer - Challenges (Margaret Lazarus)
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How to Cite This Page
For a bibliography: Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA - Women Who Dared - Biography Margaret Lazarus." <http://jwa.org/exhibits/wwd/jsp/bio.jsp?personID=pmlazarus>.

For a footnote: Jewish Women's Archive, "JWA - Women Who Dared - Biography Margaret Lazarus," <http://jwa.org/exhibits/wwd/jsp/bio.jsp?personID=pmlazarus>.