FAMS Alum Meghan McDonough '16 is directing and editing a documentary short about the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project (OLOHP), an archive of over 800 oral histories recorded over 25 years by Houston native Arden Eversmeyer. The OLOHP, which is now housed within Smith College’s Sophia Smith Collection, features life stories of lesbians born in the early part of the 20th century, a mostly invisible population that is also rapidly disappearing.
Through stop-motion animation of treasured objects, photos, and text, McDonough’s film will document Arden’s legacy and reveal the joy, pain, love, loss, and humanity experienced by the women she interviewed, who carved out lives for themselves with no blueprint in a patriarchal and heteronormative society. Arden passed away in 2022, but her legacy persists through the resilient, joyful voices she preserved. She was fond of saying that "one doesn’t need to climb Mount Everest to have a worthy story to tell." Having once lived in fear of losing her job for who she loved, she recognized the importance of reclaiming the words “old” and “lesbian” with pride rather than shame.
For two weeks in July, McDonough visited the OLOHP with her collaborator on the film, Rengim Mutevellioglu, a documentary photographer based in New York. Each day, they set up at a table in Special Collections at Neilson Library on Smith campus and slowly worked their way through 36 boxes of tapes and transcripts, as well as scanned photos and newspaper clippings. During that time, they stayed at the Bailey Brown House at Amherst, which accommodates guest artists and scholars through the Arts at Amherst Initiative. One of the days, they filmed an interview nearby with Edie Daly, a lesbian activist who has long been involved with the OLOHP as both an interviewee and a volunteer interviewer.
Leading up to our visit, McDonough worked with a team of interns on research for the film. They included Amherst student Cassidy Duncan, a rising junior English and studio art major, and 2022 Amherst graduate Helena Ravix, who received her BA in Psychology and who now works as a video editor and production assistant in New York.
Meghan's film, titled "Old Lesbians," was selected for the Listening Pitch 2023, a grant competition held by Aesthetica Film Festival and Audible, and will premiere at the BAFTA-qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York, UK, on November 10th.
Meghan McDonough is a queer filmmaker and journalist who directs and edits documentary shorts and series to better understand our world. You may remember her from her participation in the "
“A Question of Sex,” Meghan's documentary series for Scientific American about how gender biases skew science, was nominated for the 2023 GLAAD Media Awards, and “Invisible Monsters and Tomato Soup,” her animated short about pandemic dreams, was featured in The New Yorker Documentary, screened in Oscar-qualifying festivals, and profiled in Directors Notes and other outlets.
After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude from Amherst College with a BA in Film and Media Studies, Meghan received the Davis Foundation Projects for Peace Award to document the Ni Una Menos movement for gender equality in Argentina. Following stints at an independent news outlet in Buenos Aires and a documentary production company in Boston, she was selected for the Atlantic Media Editorial Fellowship in New York and subsequently promoted to staff video journalist on an award-winning team at Quartz.
Afterwards, Meghan worked at NBC to produce and edit innovative video stories in collaboration with local stations across the country. Her freelance work has since appeared in FiveThirtyEight, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and Atlas Obscura, and has been supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Meghan speaks English and Spanish. You can find her portfolio on her website.