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The first woman to win in each non-gendered Oscar category

The first woman to win in each non-gendered Oscar category

(Credit: Far Out/Academy Awards)


Since the first Academy Awards ceremony took place in 1929, 3,140 prized golden statuettes have been handed out, honouring some of the film industry’s finest achievements. However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Academy has consistently overlooked female filmmakers and creatives. Only three women have taken home the illustrious ‘Best Director’ award, which is typically won by white male filmmakers. 

The Academy’s issues with diversity and representation date back to the first ceremony, where exclusively white men were nominated for awards, excluding the three women in the ‘Best Actress’ category. Even though the ceremony is only a few years short of celebrating its one-hundredth anniversary, the Academy Awards has continued to favour white male filmmakers. No Black directors have ever won ‘Best Director’, and only three different Asian filmmakers have secured a win. 

The evident gender and race bias speaks to a broader issue in the film industry, preventing underrepresented groups from breaking into Hollywood. It is no secret that white males govern the film industry, prioritising voices most similar to theirs. Subsequently, the number of female filmmakers is dramatically smaller than that of male directors, and certainly not for lack of talent. In a report by The Celluloid Ceiling tracking the involvement of women in the 250 top-grossing films for the last 25 years, it was discovered that only 24% of directing, writing, producing, executive producing, editing and cinematography roles belonged to women in 2022.

The film industry’s deep-rooted misogyny has failed women, as have the Academy Awards. Thus, this article will illuminate the first women to have won every non-gendered category at the ceremony, many of whom have been overlooked. Beginning with ‘Best Director’, a woman did not win this category until 2010, when Kathryn Bigelow was awarded the prize for her war thriller The Hurt Locker. The film won five other awards, including ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Original Screenplay’. Since then, Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) and Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog) have also won the title of ‘Best Director’.  

In 1973, Julia Phillips became the first female winner of ‘Best Picture’ for The Sting, although this was shared with two men, Tony Bill and Michael Phillips. She was also the first woman ever to receive a nomination in the category. Brenda Chapman was the first woman to win ‘Best Animated Picture’ in 2012 for Brave, with another woman, Jennifer Lee, taking home the accolade the following year for Frozen. 

Most shockingly, only three women have ever been nominated for ‘Best Cinematography’, perhaps the most male-dominated field in the film industry. No woman has ever won the award, but the first nomination went to Rachel Morrison for Mudbound in 2017. As for ‘Best Film Editing’, Anne Bauchens won the prize in 1940 for North West Mounted Police. She was also the first female nominee in 1934 for Cecil B. DeMille’s Cleopatra. Female editors are routinely overlooked by Hollywood. That’s why experimental filmmaker Su Friedrich set up a website, Edited By, in 2019 to give them visibility. She writes, “It’s time to stop imagining that ‘it’s really the director’ who does the editing.”

Discover the complete list of the first woman to win in each non-gendered category at the Academy Awards below. 

The first woman to win in each non-gendered Oscar category:

  • ‘Best Animated Feature’ – Brenda Chapman (Brave, 2012)
  • ‘Best Cinematography’ – N/A
  • ‘Best Costume Design’ – Dorothy Jeakins Karinska (Joan of Arc, 1948)
  • ‘Best Director’ – Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, 2008)
  • ‘Best Documentary Feature’ – Nancy Hamilton (Helen Keller in Her Story, 1955)
  • ‘Best Documentary Short Subject’ – Martina Huguenot van der Linden (This Tiny World, 1972)
  • ‘Best Film Editing’ – Anne Bauchens (North West Mounted Police, 1940)
  • ‘Best International Feature Film’ – Marleen Gorris (Antonia’s Line, 1995)
  • ‘Best Makeup and Hairstyling’ – Sarah Monzani and Michèle Burke (Quest for Fire, 1982)
  • ‘Best Original Score’ – Marilyn Bergman (Yentl, 1983)
  • ‘Best Original Song’ – Dorothy Fields (‘The Way You Look Tonight’ –Swing Time, 1936)
  • ‘Best Picture’ – Julia Philips (The Sting, 1973)
  • ‘Best Production Design’ – Carmen Dillon (Hamlet, 1948)
  • ‘Best Short Film (Animated)’ – Faith Hubley (The Hole, 1962)
  • ‘Best Short Film (Live Action)’ – Joan Keller Stern (The Magic Machines, 1969)
  • ‘Best Sound Editing’ – Kay Rose (The River, 1984)
  • ‘Best Sound’ – Lora Hirschberg (Inception, 2010)
  • ‘Best Visual Effects’ – Suzanne M. Benson (Aliens, 1986)
  • ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ – Sarah Y. Mason (Little Women, 1933)
  • ‘Best Original Screenplay’ – Frances Marion (The Big House, 1930)

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