Martha & Ethel

Martha + Ethel


Martha & Ethel

Martha & Ethel is a story that you don’t see very often, perhaps because it shows the flip side of the privileged lifestyle.  It is the story of 2 lifelong nannies and the two families they worked for in Manhattan and Greenwich, Connecticut from the 1940’s up to the 1990’s.  The film follows the nannies and their relationship to the families’ children for a lifetime.

It is a look at mothering from not only a sociological, but also a very personal and emotional point of view.

“Martha & Ethel” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994. It was shot in 16mm, blown up to 35mm and distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. It had a theatrical run across Europe and the United States.


“One of the most revealing, eloquent and well received films at the Sundance Film Festival. Ambitious and emotionally deep…It deftly becomes a history of social change over 40 years and a meditation on motherhood and family. Martha and Ethel themselves are such rich screen presences”

Caryn James, The New York Times

” Martha and Ethel is as fascinating for what it doesn’t say as for what it does.”

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“Delicate work is being transacted in this unique and unforgettable documentary about two nannies. What could have been a mere memoir becomes a provocative document about the changing nature of family. Through Martha and Ethel and those whose lives they’ve touched, the filmmakers catch the emotional highs and lows of surrogate parenting and craft a touching film of harsh, haunting truth.”

Rolling stone

“This refreshing movie is a wonderful and heartwarming portrait of two women who made a unique impact upon many people. The film speaks to the hearts of everyone, as each life touches others every day.”

movie guide

“Fascinating look into a world of privilege and servility.”



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Vanity Fair Features Filmmakers Jyll Johnstone and Barbara Ettinger

Johnstone and Ettinger have created a filmic reflection on their own nanny-controlled youth, called Martha & Ethel, a paean to ...
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Director Jyll Johnstone Featured in Vogue for her first documentary, Martha & Ethel

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Additional Info

Director: Jyll Johnstone