Dubbed by men in the music industry as “too angry” and “man-hating,” Helen Reddy’s 1971 feminist anthem “I Am Woman” rose to the top of the Billboard chart and became the sound of a movement. The story behind the song and the woman who wrote and performed it is explored in the new biopic I Am Woman, starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey (Hotel Mumbai) in the titular role.
A struggling artist, Reddy left her native Australia for the heartbeat of the music industry in the United States and was unsurprisingly met with sexism. Her musical response to male executives controlling the narrative about women artist’s place in the industry dovetailed with the rise of the women’s liberation movement. The song became a number 1 hit and a cultural phenomenon — and it made Reddy a star. She won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female in 1972.
Reddy went on to record other hits, including “Angie Baby” and “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady,” but nothing matched the influence of “I Am Woman” as part of the zeitgeist of the era.
An exclusive clip from the film below illuminates the tightrope Reddy had to walk when speaking with sexist male journalists and how she was forced to placate her husband Jeff Wald's fragile ego as she became a symbol for female liberation. In the clip, she also addresses the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment and pushback from conservative women like Phyllis Schlafly (who was the subject of the recent Cate Blanchett-led Mrs. America).
The film, from director Unjoo Moon, costars Danielle Macdonald (Dumplin’, Patti Cake$) and Evan Peters (American Horror Story) as Jeff.