Guerrilla Television: Rugby Women, by Eleanor Boyer, Terra Levin, and Jeanne Meyers

In 2021, Media Burn, along with the University of Chicago and other partners, began the “Resurrecting the 1970s Guerrilla Television Movement” project, which is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources. That grant has funded the digitization, cataloging, and sharing of hundreds of essential tapes from the early history of video, with hundreds more to come. These tapes range from abstract visual studies to documentaries to home movies. They include the work of major artists like Julie Gustafson, Jane Veeder, Eleanor Boyer, Barbara Sykes, Pat Lehman, and Nancy Cain and vital organizations like People’s Video Theater/Survival Arts Media, TVTV, Global Village, Kartemquin Films, and Ant Farm as well as anonymous or uncredited videomakers documenting protest marches and landlord neglect and the aftermath of strip mining in rural Appalachia, or, simply, goofing around with the camera. These tapes are all crucial parts of our cultural heritage, told by people who, for one reason or another, weren’t given access to mainstream corporate media. This is “the people’s television” – a version of the media that encouraged active participation and that gave voice to the concerns and interests of ordinary citizens.  

Video is an incredibly fragile medium that begins to deteriorate after only a couple of decades, and many – if not most – tapes from the 1970s have experienced some level of damage or decay. Media Burn is working tirelessly to ensure these videos will endure and that their contents will be available to the public, often for the first time.

This post is part of an ongoing series from curator Adam Hart highlighting some of our favorite videos from the Guerrilla Television project. You can browse the full selection of videos here – a list that will continue to be updated as tapes are digitized and logged.

This edition’s video: Rugby Women, by Eleanor Boyer, Terra Levin, and Jeanne Meyers. All of Boyer’s work on Media Burn can be found here.

Women’s sports have come a long way, but there’s still a lot of fighting left to do for teams and athletes to get the respect they deserve. And we do mean fighting — like the players in Rugby Women.

A still from Rugby Women

At a time when women’s sports was treated as an oxymoron or a sideshow by the mainstream, a bunch of Chicago women formed a rugby team. They practiced in the park – sometimes to disbelieving male onlookers – and played against teams that had formed in other Midwestern cities. Rugby Women catches a movement of women’s athletics in its infancy, and is an invigorating, inspiring documentary about women gleefully devoted to beating the shit out of each other.

This documentary follows the Lake Shore Ale Wives, the second women’s rugby team in Chicago. Watch as the women grow to love the clashing, brawling, and scuffling that is rugby.



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