Women do not do any of the creative work
A rejection from Disney in 1938
The following letter was written on this day in 1938, and was actually the first ever entry on the old Letters of Note blog back in September of 2009. Enormous thanks to Kevin Burg, Mary’s grandson.
In 1938, a 21-year-old art graduate and aspiring animator named Mary Ford aimed high and applied for a job at arguably the greatest animation studio on Earth: Disney. This dispiriting reply she soon received, in which she was told to instead shoot for a lower star in the tracing department, was in fact a standard form rejection letter sent to all female applicants at a time when the “Nine Old Men”—a legendary group of animators responsible for some of Disney’s greatest hits—were churning out masterpiece after masterpiece. It would be another four years until Disney’s first female animator, Retta Scott, worked on Bambi.
Mary Ford never worked in animation, instead choosing to teach art to middle school students in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. After Mary’s death in 2003, her family discovered this letter in a box in her basement.
June 7, 1938
Miss Mary V. Ford
Dear Miss Ford,
Your letter of recent date has been received in the Inking and Painting Department for reply.
Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men. For this reason girls are not considered for the training school.
The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with Indian ink and filling in the tracings on the reverse side with paint according to directions.
In order to apply for a position as “Inker” or “Painter” it is necessary that one appear at the Studio, bringing samples of pen and ink and water color work. It would not be advisable to come to Hollywood with the above specifically in view, as there are really very few openings in comparison with the number of girls who apply.
Yours very truly,
WALT DISNEY PRODUCTIONS, LTD
[Signed by ‘Mary Cleave’]