Julia Reichert’s Oscar-nominated ‘Union Maids’ among movies added to National Film Registry

The late Julia Reichert’s filmmaking legacy is cemented once more as her 1976 Academy Award-nominated documentary “Union Maids” is among the 25 movies that will be added to the 2022 Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, announced Wednesday.

Co-directed by Jim Klein and Miles Mogulescu, “Union Maids” tells the story of the fight to form industrial unions in the first half of the 20th century as told through the journeys of three women.

The Library of Congress described the film as such:

“Reichert, Jim Klein and Miles Mogulescu directed this seminal labor documentary on the attempt to create industrial unions during the tumultuous 1930s. Crafted in the form of an oral history interspersed with footage from the National Archives, the film interviews three Chicago women, Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki and Sylvia Woods, who served as labor organizers during that period. The best documentaries let the subjects speak for themselves, and ‘Union Maids’ benefits greatly from the passion of these three remarkable women whose moving recollections vividly re-create the era. An exemplary example of ‘history from the bottom up’ filmmaking, it resonates as both a plea for union rights but also equality for women taking part in often male-dominated unions. The film had a theatrical run in nearly 20 cities and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.”

Reichert, who died of cancer Dec. 1, learned of the film’s induction a few weeks earlier.

“Even though ‘Union Maids’ was a black & white, super low-budget film, with interviews shot on open reel videotape to save money, the film has shown remarkable staying power,” Reichert emailed, in response to questions, days before she passed away, according to the Library of Congress. “For the longest time, women’s voices, especially working-class women’s voices, were not respected let alone heard. Documentaries presented men as the experts, the historians, the authorities. We hoped this film would just show you how vital, wise, funny and essential these women’s voices were and are, to the struggles of working people to get a better deal.”

Other films to be inducted include “Carrie,” “Charade,” “Hairspray,” “House Party,” “Iron Man,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Pariah,” “Super Fly,” “When Harry Met Sally,” and the 1950 version of “Cyrano de Bergerac.”

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, the librarian each year names 25 films at least 10 years old that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. With the announcement of the 2022 inductees, there are now 850 films in the registry.

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