White Gloves

The Oakland Standard approached two filmmakers, Les Blank and Courtney Stevens, and proposed an online documentary about the Oakland Museum Women's Board and their famous White Elephant Sale. The resultant film, White Gloves, is viewable in its entirety below. Scroll down for more information.

More about the White Elephant Sale:
The White Elephant Sale is an Oakland tradition. The sale began in 1958 on a pair of card tables, and has grown in scope and ambition every year since. In 2012, the White Elephant Sale raised an astonishing $1.7 million for programs and exhibitions at the Oakland Museum of California. Bay Area locals use the sale to stock up on antique silver, cowboy boots, or gardening tools, but few realize that the entire enterprise is run by a tightly-knit group of 100 women.

These 100 women comprise the Women’s Board of the Oakland Museum. They are an all-volunteer group, most of whom have been involved for decades, and many whose mothers ran the sale before them. In a stunning expression of charitable largesse, grace, and impeccable organization, members of the Women’s Board work year-round in an unheated warehouse the size of an airplane hangar—collecting, sorting, cleaning, and repairing thousands of items, and mobilizing upwards of a thousand additional volunteers. In woolen layers and over communal meals, they assemble what seems a whole world in miniature. Then they sell it off in three short days.

More about White Gloves:
White Gloves premiered November 4, 2011 in OMCA's James Moore Theater. The screening was followed by a conversation with members of the Women's Board—Ann Carroll, Michele Hembree, Carolyn Higgins, Deborah Smith, and Nancy Stryble spoke with Sasha Archibald—and a reception with live music by the Real Vocal String Quartet. The film was an official selection at the Dhaka International Film Festival, Jaipur International Film Festival, and the Mumbai Film Festival.

[White Gloves] is more than a history of sorting stuff for the sale; it's about sorting women's lives since the 1950s.

—San Francisco Chronicle     

White Gloves documents the unorthodox ladies of Oakland’s beloved White Elephant Sale. As they sift through objects—objects donated to the sale and the objects in their own homes—the women bear witness to the staggering changes for women during the twentieth century. The film touches on the social relationships that sustain the women's volunteerism, and their own reflections on success and the life well-lived. Many of the women featured in the film were born in the 1920s and 1930s, and were part of the early Women's Board, a small group of mothers in the 1950s who began petitioning for a world-class museum in their own underfunded Oakland.

Courtney Stephens, Director      

White Gloves was produced for the Oakland Standard with the following crew:
Director: Courtney Stephens
Producer: Eleonore Meier
Co-producer: Christine No
Associate Producer: Les Blank
Featuring: The Women’s Board of the Oakland Museum
Cinematography: Autumn Durald, Katie Goldschmidt
Editor: Tyler MacIntyre
Titles: Dan Perri
Sound Designer: Andrew Tracy
Music Supervisor: Lauren Mikus
Score: Hanan Townshend
Additional Editor: Daniel Koobir
Additional Camera: Matt Petty, Peggy Peralta, Courtney Stephens, Jennifer June Strawn
Creative Consultant: Jennifer June Strawn
Production Assistants: Max Lansing, Jenni Knight, Lourdes Figueroa