In the golden age of Hollywood, as “script girls,” negative cutters, researchers, inkers, painters, seamstresses, secretaries, and so on, women could be found in nearly every department of every studio, minding the details that might otherwise get in the way of more important, prestigious, or creative work (a.k.a. men’s work). Though their names might not have appeared in the credits, individually and collectively, they made vast contributions to film history, from the only roles open to them at studios built on their low-cost backs and scaled through their brushes and keystrokes.
In this exclusive piece for Lenny Letter, Erin Hill – author of Never Done: A History of Women’s Work in Media Production – tells the story of Ida Koverman, executive secretary to MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer from 1928 to 1951. For Erin, Ida exemplifies the essential role that women played in the day-to-day operations of studio-era Hollywood.
She was one of thousands of women who administered the offices of studios’ major personnel, looked after their personal lives and emotional needs, and contributed to production as their lieutenants. As one executive put it, Koverman “damn near ran the studio” in her role as gatekeeper, delegator, and shaper of administrative solutions.