In the past, most career paths were dominated by the white male stereotype. Society has come a long way since then, though it isn’t a secret we still have a long way to go. Despite the incredibly discriminatory industry, Hattie McDaniel defied the poisonous assumption that because she was a ‘black woman’, she had no worth.
She was the first African-American woman to break the colour barrier and win an Oscar for her betrayal as Mammy in Gone with the wind. Ironically, the hotel in which the ceremony was held had a ‘no blacks’ rule – this shows how symbolic of an achievement it was to win such a prestigious award. McDaniel endured racism, sexism and likely criticism, yet still persevered and became a gateway to greater diversity in Hollywood.
She may have received a life changing title, but Hattie spent her whole life nurturing her talents so that she could be recognised. Her singing abilities were discovered early on, and she began performing professionally while still at school. Later she joined her older brother’s troupe and landed a position working at a radio station in Denver – all leading up to her epic role in Gone with the wind. Hattie worked tirelessly to establish herself as an actress, in doing so, she widened the possibilities and aspirations for young women everywhere.
I have chosen Hattie McDaniel to write about because I believe that although she might not have known it, she is a feminist icon and an inspiration to girls of all colours, shapes and dreams. I know that saying this phrase is cliche, but she is truly an inspiration to us because she knew she could achieve her dreams no matter her circumstances. Not only did she break though the glass ceiling, she shattered it into a thousand little pieces.
She taught us that there is room for growth and we can make it happen if we are passionate and diligent. Whilst writing this blog post I discovered a quote originating from McDaniel herself – “You can best fight any existing evil from the inside”. I may be bias but I think this truly deserves an Oscar.
See you next time,