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‘Love Letters’: 39-minute short film premieres at Western

The story of a lesbian couple’s love story and fight for custody

Scenes from the 2023 festival and associated events in Bellingham, Wash. // Photos by Oliver Hamlin

The film premiere of “Love Letters,” directed by Greta Schiller, will be held at Western Washington University on Friday, March 8. The film tells the love story of a lesbian couple and their fight for custody of one of the women’s  children. 

“It focuses on this love story between Catharine Stimpson and Elizabeth Wood,” said Cheryl Crooks, executive director at CASCADIA International Women's Film Festival. “It's also about how they were involved in the 1970s landmark legal case to gain custody of Elizabeth's children and it was the first time a lesbian couple had received custody.”

Since graduating from Columbia University, Stimpson, a Bellingham native, has become a nationally recognized scholar and early feminist and gender studies scholar, Crooks said. 

Along with the film premiere, Stimpson is donating her personal articles, essays, photos and more to Western’s Archive and Special Collections Department, said Ruth Steele, an archivist at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies at Western.

Western’s Archives and Special Collections division is already in possession of the archival papers of Stimpson’s parents, Bellingham social figures, as well as that of her late brother Edward Stimpson, who was an expert in aviation, Steele said.

Archives Building
The Goltz-Murray Archives Building , located in Bellingham, Wash. The Archives Building holds archives from the northwest Washington region. // Photo courtesy of of Western Libraries Archives & Special Collections

“For us, this event is really about acknowledging publicly something that Catharine's wanted acknowledged in Bellingham for some time,” said Beth Joffrion, the director of Archives and Special Collections at Western’s libraries. “And that is that she's donated archival papers to Western.”

The event is sponsored by Western Libraries Archives & Special Collections, CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival, the Western Foundation, Western’s Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program and LGBTQ+ Western.

“I think in terms of community partnership, there's just a groundswell of interest in this film and Catharine, in the archives, and it's just opened many doors,” Joffrion said. “I think that will lead to research use of this collection going forward, which is certainly what our goal is.”

During Women's History Month, CASCADIA International Women's Film Festival puts on its own showcase. This year, they are premiering “Love Letters,” with the event happening to land on International Women’s Day, Crooks said.

CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival is one of the few women’s only film festivals, Crooks said.

“Women remained dramatically underrepresented as directors, accounting for just 16% of those working on the 250 top grossing films and 14% on the 100 top grossing films,” according to Dr. Martha Lauzen in “The Celluloid Ceiling.” 

For actors, 18% of the top 100 grossing films feature more women and 5% of the grossing films include an equal number of men and women in 2023, according to Dr. Martha Lauzen. 

“You rarely ever see a trans woman in the media and 90% of the time if they are it's just the butt of a joke,” said Mari Sorensen, a transgender woman. “It's a tiring feeling, especially when it works its way casually into movies you otherwise may love.”

“Of the 350 films released theatrically and on tracked streaming services by the ten distributors counted in 2022, 100, or 28.5%, were LGBTQ-inclusive,” according to GLAAD, the largest LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization.

On March 7, the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program will be holding an academic panel with Stimpson for students from 4 to 6 p.m.

The premiere will be on March 8, held in the Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available on the “Love Letters” film screening website for free.

Courtney Sipila

Courtney Sipila (she/her) is a campus life reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a second-year visual journalism/marketing major. Outside of reporting on the people of Western, Courtney enjoys playing soccer, video games, and watching movies. You can reach her at

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