April 06, 2008

Jill Craigie (1911–1999)

Jill Craigie (1911-1999)

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Jill Craigie seems to have been Britain's second woman film maker after Kay Mander and has a cinema named after her at Plymouth University. This is the city where she made her post-war planning film The Way We live (1946). As well as being a film maker and screenwriter she was also a researcher into the Suffragettes and wrote an introduction to Emeline Pankhurst's autobiography My Own Story published by Virago in  1979. Jill Craigie was also an alumni at Indiana University although they forgot to put in the fact that she was a documentary filmmaker(!): "Alumni of the Institute of Advanced Study (Academic Fellows, Distinguished Citizen Fellows and Visiting Scholars) - 1982-2007":

Jill Craigie, Historian of women's movement, journalist, screenwriter. (Distinguished Citizen Fellow in September of 1991)

The Way We Live was backed by Fillipo del Guidice of Two Cities films which was a brave decision backing a young woman with little experience as a filmmaker. Craigie made another film concerned with planning and post-war redevelopment in Middlesborough called Picture Paper. The only evidence I can find about this is present on the website below:  

Over 10,000 people saw the exhibition in one week. The Picture Post articles stimulated a documentary film made by Jill Craigie - Picture Paper - a story of the photographer / reporter who come to Middlesbrough to see and interview the Group at work and was shown in cinemas all over the country. (History of Max Lock Group)

A biopic of Emmeline Pankhurst an uncompleted film project 

Carl Rollyson author of the 2005 biography of Craigie To Be A Woman has commented upon this in the Virginia Quarterly Review of Spring 2003 which I have cited at length as it is a good example of what a film maker must overcome when trying to make documentaries about controversial figures:

So influential has Sylvia's narrative become that when former Labor Party cabinet minister Barbara Castle published a short study of the Pankhursts she blithely relied on Sylvia's The Suffragette Movement without noting any of its numerous inconsistencies and biases, flaws that June Purvis identifies. Jill Craigie (1911—1999), a lifelong student of the suffragettes, and wife of former Labor Party leader Michael Foot, was so outraged at Castle's ignorance that she called her up and threatened to "flatten her." Craigie, a staunch Socialist and Labor Party loyalist, nevertheless knew from firsthand experience how brutal Sylvia had been in her quest to superimpose her narrative of Votes for Women on the memory of her mother. In 1940, Craigie had read Sylvia's The Suffragette Movement and had been captivated by its "rich" writing. Sylvia saw history, Craigie commented, with the "eyes of an artist." But in 1943, when Craigie decided to write and direct a documentary on the suffragettes, she found herself pitted against Sylvia and other suffragettes who fought over who would act as advisor to the film and thus control the master narrative of their story. The film never got made because of this internecine warfare, and Craigie spent the next several decades of her life assembling a massive collection of material and writing a book (left incomplete at her death) that exposes how Sylvia distorted her mother's legacy. As I will show in a forthcoming biography of Craigie, she is the missing link between West and Purvis. Craigie is partly responsible for the rediscovery and reprinting of West's work in the 1970's and is the key transitional figure who leads to Purvis' brilliant demonstration that during and after the war Emmeline Pankhurst not only did not abandon her principles, but saw the war and its aftermath as a way to implement them. Although there are many reasons why Craigie did not complete her epic work (a substantial manuscript of over 200,000 well-polished words), one consideration surely is the massive criticism she would have endured in her own party for putting one of Britain's Socialist icons on the rack.

Sadly this kind of wrangling led to the film about Emmeline Pankhurst never being made.  Below are a list of relevant links following a Google search down to page 20. I have now ordered the biography of her by Rollyson which should enable a deeper introduction to her role in the film world to be written. In the meantime there are a range of useful links provided below. 


A full list of credits for Jill Craigie is available at the Screenonline database. (It does miss out Paper Picture)

Two Hours from London (1995) [Self funded Documentary screened on BBC2]

To Be a Woman (1951) Jill Craigie

Blue Scar (1949)  Jill Craigie [Blue Scar, a film exploring the implications of coal industry nationalisation in 1947, is a considerable achievement.]

Children of the Ruins (1948) Jill Craigie [Documentary]

The Way We Live (1946) Jill Craigie [Postwar Planning] YouTube extract can be viewed here sorry not embeddable):


Picture Paper (1946) Jill Craigie [The evidence for the existence of this film is History of Max Lock Group]

Out of Chaos (1944) Jill Craigie

As Screenwriter 

Windom's Way (1957), screenwriter

Trouble in Store (1953), uncredited screenwriter

The Million Pound Note (1953), screenwriter

The Flemish Farm (1943), screenwriter (credited as "Jill Dell")


Screenonline Biography of Jill Craigie

Blair joins tributes to Jill Craigie BBC 1999

UK Women force removal of Koestler bust. BBC story on Koestler'ws sexual violence

Camden New Journal (March 2003) report on biography of Jill Craigie

The British Documentary Website Jill Craigie  

Wikipedia Entry on Jill Craigie

Synopsis of To Be a Woman @ Politicos Bookshop

The tracking down of Craigie's Middlesborough documentary

There is an interview of Jill Craigie avaible from the UEA BECTU website but you will need to have formal access 


  • Macnab, Geoffrey (1993). J. Arthur Rank and the British Film Industry. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-07272-7.
  • Rollyson, Carl (2005). To Be A Woman: The Life Of Jill Craigie. Aurum Press. ISBN 1-85410-935-9.
  • Dr Gwenno Ffrancon published ‘The same old firm dressed up in a new suit’: Blue Scar (Craigie, 1949) and the portrayal of the nationalisation of the coal industry in Media History. This article examines how a film, Blue Scar, made in 1949 by Jill Craigie, the filmmaker, feminist and wife of Michael Foot, portrays the changes brought about by nationalisation in the South Wales coalfield in the late 1940s.
  • Entiknap, Leo. 2001. Postwar Urban Redevelopment, the British Film industry and The Way We Live. In Shiel, Mark and Fitzmaurice Tony eds. Cinema and The City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context. Oxford: Blackwell
  • Leo Entiknap's PhD thesis is available including work on Cragie's film The Way We Live can be downloaded here.
  • Two articles may be downloaded without cost from Women's History Review, Volume 9 Issue 1 2000 on Jill Craigie. One by June Purvis and the other by Ursual Owen.

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