Story Development

November 2023

November marks 1.5 years of working on this film, the end of my NEH research fellowship, and the achievement of many important milestones in the making of Saund vs Cohran!

Most notably, we have collected and logged over 2000 newspaper articles from 1955-1958. These newspapers reveal a remarkably engaged American electorate and also many dramatic twists and turns in the race to represent California’s 29th district.

It’s been interesting to see how Cold War considerations propelled Saund to win support on a national level as well as on a local level. News of India was regularly reported in American newspapers dominated by Cold War concerns. American policymakers were greatly threatened by India’s policy of non-alignment which allowed India to engage with both the United States and the Soviet Union. In his campaign, Saund suggested that his election would indicate to the world – in particular to newly independent and non-aligned Asian nations ­– that democracy was real. This Cold War positioning inspired Senator John F. Kennedy to leverage Democratic National Committee support for Saund, stating that Saund could serve as an effective tool for democracy abroad. Even at the local level in California, voters understood that his election would reflect positively for the country.

Before beginning his congressional term in January of 1957, Saund was invited to Washington to attend to the visit of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

This story of Saund’s inclusion is also the story of Cochran’s gendered exclusion. Despite President Eisenhower’s endorsement and support from the Republican party on a national level, Cochran’s local party members thwarted her ambitions. She defeated 5 Republican men in the primaries for this election, but not one of her opponents endorsed her afterwards. These primary opponents in fact, conspired against her and encouraged their supporters to cross party lines and vote for Saund rather than for her.

I can’t wait to tell you more!

CALL TO ACTION: If you have been doing research on this topic, I’d love to hear from you! Please also consider making a tax-deductible donation here to support the research and development stage of this film.