Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT alum Liz Carpenter’s daughter produces film about mother’s trailblazing life in journalism, equal rights


Combing through boxes of old articles and notes in 2020, Christy Carpenter pieced together an article recognizing her mother’s achievements in time for what would have been her 100th birthday. Carpenter’s mother, Liz Carpenter, was born days after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, foreshadowing her life as a trailblazer for women’s rights. Last Sunday at SXSW, Carpenter spotlighted her mother’s accomplishments with the premier of “Shaking it Up: The Life and Times of Liz Carpenter.”

After Carpenter wrote her mother’s 100th birthday article, friend and documentarian Abby Ginzberg approached Carpenter about producing a documentary about her mother’s life. Though she already planned to write a larger book about her mother, Carpenter jumped on the opportunity to direct and produce the film alongside Ginzberg. Carpenter also contributed commentary from a personal perspective as an interviewee in the film.

“(I thought it would be) a mistake to just do a book given that her mother was funny, given that her mother was a trailblazer (and) given how much video footage there was of her,” said Ginzberg, a Peabody award-winner. 

The documentary discusses Liz Carpenter’s accomplishments as an activist and how she pioneered women’s involvement in the newsroom and politics as she became involved in both the East and West Wings of the White House. The proud UT alumna and Texan moved to Austin early in her youth, making the documentary’s premiere at SXSW all the more special. 

“I think (my mother) would have been amazed … that I took this on,” first-time documentarian Carpenter said. “Hopefully, she’s cheering up there from that great democratic caucus in the sky,” 

The film features interviews with friends and colleagues, archival news footage, home videos and photographs. With experience working on documentaries focused on Lady Bird and Lyndon Johnson, archive producer Susanne Mason found much of this old footage. 

“The Liz Carpenter documentary was a no-brainer because I had already seen her in footage and thought about her as an interesting protagonist and knew where some of the material was,” Mason said. “She hadn’t been the focus of either of the other two projects, but it was easy to know where she had influence and where we might find things.” 

The team overcame obstacles, asking for financial support, but luckily found generous friends and foundations to support the documentary. However, Carpenter said the team still seeks additional funding for distribution.

“(There is) a lot of work that goes into making a documentary,” Carpenter said. “It is like climbing a mountain, and so it makes it a much more meaningful journey when it’s (about) somebody that you knew well and loved.”

Carpenter said her mother’s refusal to conform to the standards of women in professional industries in her time inspired the film’s title “Shaking it Up.” She hopes to screen the documentary at colleges to empower students. 

“I’m really hoping students will be inspired by the film and see, through the story of one woman, how anybody can make a difference,” Carpenter said. “If they roll up their sleeves and really work at it, in whatever arena they want to do it, anybody can make a difference.

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