Women On Screen: Women at the Academy Awards
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The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was founded in 1927 with Douglas Fairbanks as the first president. The first awards ceremony was held in 1929, evaluating the films for 1927-1928. Janet Gaynor was the first woman to win the award for best actress for her roles in Seventh Heaven (1927) and Street Angel (1928). The fact that motion pictures had set up an academy and began awarding performances and productions indicates that film was finally taken seriously as an art form. The best supporting actor and actress categories were not created until 1936 so in the early years of the awards there was only one category specifically set aside for women. Other actresses that won in the early years of the award ceremony were Mary Pickford in 1930 for her role in Coquette (1929), Norma Shearer for The Divorcee (1930), Marie Dressler for Min and Bill (1930), Helen Hayes for her role in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931) and Katharine Hepburn for her role in Morning Glory (1932).

By the time of the first Academy Awards, women directors had already been pushed out of many behind the scenes roles and were therefore notably absent from the awards outside of Best Actress. One exception is Frances Marion who won an award for Best Writing Achievement for her film The Big House (1930) and became the first woman to win an award for an achievement other than acting.