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Grant number: GA-254210-17

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WGBH Educational Foundation (Boston, MA 02135-2016)
Mark Samels (Project Director: August 2016 to present)

American Experience: Documentary Films on Science

Production of two hour-long films for the American Experience that examine the topic of science, society, and motherhood.

This is a proposal for a cooperative agreement between American Experience, public television's preeminent history series, and the National Endowment for the Humanities for the production of two one-hour film projects. The films in this proposal directly respond to the NEH's call for projects that examine connections between the sciences and the humanities.

The first film in this proposal, The Mother of Tomorrow, tells the story of the involuntary eugenic sterilization of twenty-year-old Ann Cooper Hewitt. The ensuing 1936 trial in California, in which Ann took her mother and two doctors to court, brought eugenics and motherhood to the center of popular debate across the country. The sensational trial is a lens on the much wider eugenics movement and its long history in the United States.  The second film, The Science of Love, chronicles Professor Harry Harlow's forty-year research career in experimental psychology and also illuminates the history and science of motherhood in the mid-twentieth century. In the 1950s, Harlow developed an experiment with infant monkeys that helped reshape how Americans viewed parenting and how they thought about human, as well as monkey, mothers. Harlow's research provides a revealing reflection of shifting beliefs about the role of women in American homes and families.

Project fields:

Cooperative Agreements and Special Projects (Public Programs)

Public Programs

Total amounts:
$800,000 (approved)
$800,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
12/1/2016 – 12/31/2018