Meet Molly Schiot, creator of the Instagram account @TheUnsungHeroines, originally a celebration of the pioneering, forgotten female athletes of the twentieth century—those who changed the face of sports around the globe in the pre-Title IX age. She started posting daily images in 2014 as "this personal protest where I was like, you can’t tell me that these stories aren’t interesting. I’m going to show you that they are. It’s a way to do something positive with this outrage that I feel."
Unsung Heroines has since evolved into an account that champions all “forgotten” women who have affected change, and a book, Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History. We were thrilled to chat with Schiot about women whose stories deserve to be told, how society shapes narratives, and the inherent political nature of her work. Because, as the mission of her platform reminds us, "without visibility our history becomes lost."
Tell us about the impetus of your Instagram account, Unsung Heroines. What prompted you to initially document seemingly forgotten women in sports history?
The Instagram account was kind of a manipulative protest against a big network that never airs women's stories because they have not found any that are compelling. I am a director and kept pitching women's stories because there were none (JUST TONS ABOUT DUDES) and I thought it would be a no brainer for them to green-light one of them but I have not held my breath.
And now you highlight any woman who deserves credit for contributing to our society. How did you decide to evolve from athletes to all female change makers?
As I mentioned above I had been pitching to a sports network so it started off as a very specific account. I grew a little tired of just that genre and it was such a relief to open it up.
In your words, Unsung Heroines is an ode to honoring “women who paved the way for us, b/c without visibility our history becomes lost.” Why is the historical component to your storytelling so important?
I think before the internet everything that was in print—that is in print—will remain in archives. I think it is really important to get those stories into Googles algorithm. It takes a lot of effort though. That’s why I appreciate accounts like: @lgbt_history and @17.21women.
Do you think women’s stories are still generally absent from our culture’s narrative?
One hundred percent. Open up Netflix and scroll through their documentary offerings. Compare male versus female protagonists and get ready to get depressed.
Similarly, women in sports (and in many industries) are still fighting for equal treatment, pay and representation. Why is magnifying female’s voices and stories so pivotal to inciting change?
Coco Gauff watched Venus Williams play tennis on TV as a kid. She then played against her at Wimbledon. I grew up watching Rob Lowe and Axl Rose because there were no female role models on TV, so....
We admire your willingness to speak up and out against historic injustices against women and also about today’s political climate. Is this an intentional choice?
Not so much intentional. I just am angry. I mean holy Mary mother of god; our president mocked a 16-year-old girl today fighting climate change today? If I can get a few people to vote or to care, great!
Your Instagram account also spurred the publication of a book of the same name. Tell us about the process of turning your digital work into physical.
I had a bad ass agent (Erin Hosier) and a bad ass editor (Julianna Haubner and Simon and Schuster) that saw the importance of a book like this because sadly there was not one before. I mean how wild is it that the only other books about sports and women from history are called things like “She is a knock out” about women in boxing. It was REAL wild that this would be the first one and we worked so hard to crank it out in such a short period of time to get it out before the Winter Olympics. My wife, Cass Bugge, was a godsend and worked tirelessly on the book in order for us to get it in on time.
What has the response been to Unsung Heroines, book and Instagram platform?
What has been the most rewarding part of creating this work?
Learning names and faces. Also getting to know some of the women in the book and becoming good friends with a few of them.
What is up next for you and Unsung Heroines?
Currently in development with a partner that I'm not able to name just yet.