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WE Books Women's History Initiative

In yet another effort to establish its new brand, WE: Women's Entertainment will promote National Women's History Month through a new partnership with Scholastic Inc.'s Scholastic Book Clubs.

The former Romance Classics will extend its new Cool Women
programming franchise into a multiplatform educational campaign that combines the Internet, on-air programming, classroom initiatives and printed study guides.

The educational move was made possible, in part, because of the network's transformation and name change. Viewers might not readily associate a network named "Romance Classics" with educational materials, admitted WE senior vice president and general manager Martin von Ruden.

WE has enlisted Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon as spokeswoman for the month-long "Cool Women in History" effort.

"She's very active and passionate, and she has children of her own," von Ruden said. "It's very exciting to have an actress and activist of her caliber involved."

Every Sunday evening in March, Sarandon will host films, series, documentaries and biographical shorts that feature such prominent women in history as Amelia Earhart, Lucille Ball and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Scholastic will distribute a teaching guide that targets teachers of grades four through nine. The programmer also will make the teachers' kits available to cable operators for distribution within their communities.

Cablevision Systems Corp., for example, will distribute the teacher aids through its "Power to Learn" online project, von Ruden said.

"History in general is underserved in this country," von Ruden said. "We tend to worry about what's coming tomorrow and forget what history has taught us, especially with women."

The Scholastic partnership should help WE gain teachers' attention.

"Schools are usually locked into several successful [cable-related] programs," von Ruden said.

Because the educational initiative is in its pilot year, WE did not enlist Cable in the Classroom's assistance. But von Ruden said he hopes the Women's History initiative becomes an annual event and that other networks follow suit.

"Black History Month has really been our model," von Ruden said. "The industry should really be applauded for its efforts."

Despite the brand-name shift away from romance, WE hasn't changed its core target audience: women aged 25 to 49. By reaching out to their daughters through "Cool Women in History," von Ruden hopes the network, by extension, will also reach its intended viewers.

"Our wish is that mothers and daughters watch together," von Ruden said.

Links to the educational materials will be available on the network's affiliate Web site (www.amcnetworks.com) and at the National Women's History Project site, (www.nwhp.org).