Marie Dressler House honours Canada's Women Film Pioneers

By Cecilia Nasmith

The Marie Dressler Foundation Board of Directors is pleased to announce a new addition to Marie Dressler House – a new museum to be located inside the premises named Canada's Women Film Pioneers.

Marie Dressler Foundation president and chair Rick Miller said in the announcement that, in addition to Dressler, two other women will be honoured for significant achievement.

“In the first four years of the Oscars, the Best Actress Award was given to three Canadian actresses who found their way to Hollywood – Mary Pickford, Norma Shearer and Marie Dressler,” Miller said.

“This is a glorious history for young Canadian women to learn about, because these women pioneers were also producers, studio founders and very savvy businesswomen who achieved unheard-of prestige and rank in an age where very few women ever attained any positions of power.

“These women were the power in Hollywood, a feat never seen again.”

The foundation has formed key partnerships with the Mary Pickford Foundation, Darin Barnes ( and the Toronto International Film Festival Film Reference Library, each of which is providing generous in-kind donations of content for the new museum.

For Debra Kwinter, director of TIFF's Share Her Journey program, the achievements of Canada's women film pioneers inspires an important question – if these amazing women could do it then, how can we help do it now?

Their example has been an inspiration for this TIFF program, which provides funding for women filmmakers to create the opportunities to increase their presence in front of and behind the cameras, with the goal of achieving that same strong voice in the industry.

The University of Toronto Master of Museum Studies program will create the interpretive design of the new interactive museum. It's the second time this program has been involved in creating a new interpretive plan for Dressler House, Professor Cara Krmpotich (director of the museum studies program) said in the press release.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership for this new expanded museum.”L

The foundation has also partnered with the Town of Cobourg in a new long-term cost-sharing arrangement for the use of the municipally-owned birthplace of Marie Dressler.

“We are excited about this new cultural asset for Cobourg's residents, and look forward to having another engaging attraction for visitors to Experience Cobourg,” Mayor John Henderson commented.

It will be a unique attraction, Miller stated.

“While featuring Mary Pickford, Norma Shearer and Marie Dressler, there will be significant on-line content highlighting the presence of women in the film industry and research into other Canadian women's contribution to the film industry.”