Disney’s 1938 rejection letter to young woman is both beautiful and cold-hearted

By 1938, women’s rights may have been slowly and painstakingly clunking their way forward, but male bias was still very much alive and well.

A rejection letter from Walt Disney Studios has highlighted just how much women were up against at the time.

Yes, the letter heading is exquisite – you’re lucky if you get an automated email response these days – but the rebuttal to Miss Ford’s job application still feels like a slap in the face almost 80 years later.

1938 was a big year for the studio, harking the release of its first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs .

And a lady called Mary Ford applied for a post in their Painting Department.

Here’s the studio’s reply.
“Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen as that is performed entirely by young men,” the letter explains.

“The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with Indian ink and filling in the tracings on the reverse side with point according to directions.”

Still, that’s better than being told “the only work open to women is secretarial.”

But the letter goes on to read, “In order to apply for the position as ‘Inker’ or ‘Painter’ it is necessary that one appear at the Studio, bringing samples of pen and ink and water colour work.

It was the tireless efforts of hundreds of women inkers and painters who assisted in getting Snow White on to the big screen, during a time when studio life had been disrupted by World War II.
However, as the letter goes on: “It would not be advisable to come to Hollywood with the above specifically in view, as there are really very few openings in comparison with the number of girls who apply.”

Things may be far from perfect in 2017, but they’ve definitely progressed somewhat.