Media Activist, Filmmaker and Author Jean Kilbourne '64 Was Inducted Into The National Women's Hall of Fame This Weekend

October 5, 2015
Jean Kilbourne '64

Jean Kilbourne '64, alumna and senior scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women, was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame this past weekend in Seneca Falls, NY. Speaking at the ceremony, she said, “I attended an all-women’s college and was shocked when I got into the real world to be a second class citizen...It crystallized my thinking that I had to do something about the negative images of women in advertisements. I heeded the advice to go where silence is and say something.”

Kilbourne is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and for her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. Her work was a radical and original idea at the time but is now mainstream and an integral part of most prevention programs.

Kilbourne’s fellow inductees included an Olympic gold medalist, a leader in the breast cancer research movement, and women who revolutionized modern dance, helped pass groundbreaking legislation, made landmark discoveries in the study of bacteria, withstood vicious racial abuse and threats in integrating a public school, and helped shed light on the workings of the human immune system. There are now 266 American women of achievement enshrined in the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame cited Kilbourne’s accomplishments, in part, as follows: “Kilbourne... has transformed the way in which organizations and educational institutions around the world address the prevention of many public health problems including smoking, high-risk drinking, eating disorders, obesity, the sexualization of children and violence against women.”

Kilbourne is the author of several books and the creator of the films Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women, Spin the Bottle, Deadly Persuasion, and Slim Hopes. Kilbourne was recently featured, along with several well-known feminists, in the 2011 film, Miss Representation,  which was described as a “crash course in media literacy for the Internet generation” and the PBS series Makers: Women Who Made America. She has served as an advisor to two Surgeons General and has testified for the U.S. Congress. She has received many awards, including a 2015 Wellesley Alumnae Achievement Award.

Seneca Falls, the location of the Hall of Fame, was the scene of the first women’s rights convention in 1848 and is considered the Birthplace of the Women’s Rights Movement. It is also the home of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park.