Alice Guy-Blache is considered to be the world’s first female director, as well as the first director to direct a film with a narrative story, per Britannica. Born in France in 1873, Guy-Blache got her start at age 22 as a secretary for inventor and movie camera manufacturer Léon Gaumont, according to the New York Times. She asked Gaumont if she could film a few scenes, and he agreed. In 1896, she made her first, minute-long short film, “La Fée aux Choux,” or “The Cabbage Fairy,” in which a woman plucks naked babies out of a cabbage patch.
In 1910, Guy-Blache started her own film company in the United States, which proved to be a massive success, and she opened her own film studio two years later. She ultimately made around 1,000 films, many of them shorts. “I have produced some of the biggest productions ever released by a motion picture company,” she told the New York Clipper in 1912 (via the New York Times).
In her later years, Guy-Blache found herself struggling with her health, her finances, her marriage, and her gender. By the 1920s, she was marginalized by the growing film industry as a female filmmaker, and many of her films were lost. “It is a failure; is it a success?” Guy-Blache wrote of her life in her memoirs, which were released posthumously. “I don’t know.” She died in New Jersey in 1968, aged 94.