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THE FILMIn 1889, the year Washington achieved statehood, Norwegian immigrant Thea Christiansen Foss arrived in Tacoma on the newly opened Northern Pacific Railroad.
With transportation limited to train, horse–drawn buggies and boats, Thea quickly recognized a business opportunity in the growing demand for water travel. Beginning with an initial $5 purchase of a rowboat, the marine transport business she and her husband Andrew founded on the Tacoma waterfront has grown over more than a century into the largest, most modern fleet of tugs on the West Coast.
Through her life and work, Thea Foss became a pioneer archetype for women in the first half of the twentieth century. In 1931, Thea became the inspiration for a fictional character in Norman Reilly Raine's famed "Tugboat Annie" stories published in the Saturday Evening Post. These popular tales led to three Hollywood motion pictures and a 1950's television series.
Finding Thea separates the woman from the myth. It combines rare archival footage, photos, and clips from the 1933 Tugboat Annie film starring Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery with contemporary reflections of her legacy along Washington State's waterfronts.
...and a film was born — reflections from Nancy Bourne Haley
Finding Thea was inspired by the spirit of Thea Foss. In the winter of 2004, while sitting at a club meeting talking about the Tacoma pioneer, it hit me that a filmed story for the 21st Century explaining this immigrant woman's legacy to the region was long overdue. I was trained and had made documentary films in my earlier career, and was itching to get back into the medium somehow. As I look back several years now, I see that I relied on my intuition about an idea and took a risk to see it through. I now feel the choices I made along the way will be a lasting reward for our community — all much as Thea must have felt about her life.
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