HERstory Film

HERstory: The Founding Mothers of Johnson & Wales University is a 30-minute documentary told in narrative style which captures and preserves the history of Gertrude I. Johnson and Mary T. Wales, founders of a business school for women in 1914, in Providence, Rhode Island.


Beginning in Gertrude’s own home with one student and one typewriter, the Johnson & Wales Business School was born and thus began Gertrude and Mary’s lifelong commitment to educating women, affording them the opportunity to leave behind their lives as maids and factory workers and enter the “professions” – namely – office work.


This documentary explores Gertrude’s and Mary’s personal life choices, their trailblazing within the institution of higher education, and their contributions to the women’s movement. Interviews include the few living students of Miss Johnson and Miss Wales who attended the school in the 1930s and early 1940s.


Despite countless obstacles in their path – including two world wars, the Great Depression, the Hurricane of 1938, and blatant sexism in the workplace – Gertrude Johnson and Mary Wales persevered for 33 years and built the foundation for what is now an internationally recognized career university.


This is their story. A story that was all but forgotten.


This production was made possible by Johnson & Wales University and with the support of University President John J. Bowen, Class of 1977.