Kathryn BigelowAs Kathryn Bigelow celebrates her much-deserved Best Director Oscar nomination for 'The Hurt Locker,' it's mind-boggling to realize that she is, in fact, only the fourth woman director ever to be nominated.

While the Academy has honored a female composer (Rachel Portman), editor (Thelma Schoonmaker), and screenwriters (Diablo Cody, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), no female director has won an Oscar in the past 81 years. If Bigelow breaks through, as her fellow female directors hope, it will be a tribute to how far women directors have come.

Here's a look at the only three other female directors to score Oscar nominations in the history of the awards. Kathryn BigelowAs Kathryn Bigelow celebrates her much-deserved Best Director Oscar nomination for 'The Hurt Locker,' it's mind-boggling to realize that she is, in fact, only the fourth woman director ever to be nominated.

While the Academy has honored a female composer (Rachel Portman), editor (Thelma Schoonmaker), and screenwriters (Diablo Cody, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), no female director has won an Oscar in the past 81 years. If Bigelow breaks through, as her fellow female directors hope, it will be a tribute to how far women directors have come.

Here's a look at the only three other female directors to score Oscar nominations in the history of the awards.

Lina Wertmüller
Movie: 'Seven Beauties' (1975)
Known for: Collaborations with actor Giancarlo Giannini, leftist sociopolitical themes, fascination with impoverished characters
Why She's Important: The Italian filmmaker was once Federico Fellini's assistant director ('8 1/2') and best known to foreign-film devotees for movies starring her good friend Giannini. 'Seven Beauties,' a tragicomic tale of how a demoralized man (Giannini) survives life in a concentration camp by seducing a female German officer, earned Wertmüller critical and commercial success in the art-house market, culminating in her four Academy Award nominations. Another first-time nominee, John Avildsen, ended up winning for his considerably more cheerful underdog flick, 'Rocky.'
Oscars Trivia: Although Wertmüller's three other competitors were beloved former nominees: Ingmar Bergman ('Face to Face'), Sidney Lumet ('Network') and Alan J. Pakula ('All the President's Men'), none of them ever won an Oscar for directing.

Jane CampionJane Campion
Movie: 'The Piano' (1993)
Known For: Strong female protagonists, psycho-sexual themes, and striking art-cinema visuals
Why She's Important: It took 17 years, but in 1994, Kiwi director Jane Campion broke the almost-two-decade gap to become the second woman with a Best Director nomination. Unfortunately for Campion, 'The Piano' was released the same year as 'Schindler's List.' Even if Steven Spielberg had not been a lock for Best Director, Campion also faced off against a trio of veteran nominees: Robert Altman ('Short Cuts'), James Ivory ('The Remains of the Day') and Jim Sheridan ('In the Name of the Father'). Campion went on to snag an original screenplay Oscar for writing the critically adored period drama.
Oscar Trivia: 'The Piano' swept the actress category, with both Holly Hunter and an 11-year-old Anna Paquin winning their best and supporting awards.

Sofia CoppolaSofia Coppola
Movie: 'Lost in Translation' (2003)
Known For: Highly stylized cinematography and art direction, vulnerable characters, and impeccably selected soundtracks
Why She's Important: A decade after Campion's nomination, the next woman to receive the honor was Hollywood royalty. The daughter of Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia was the first American woman to earn an Oscar nod for directing. Only 32 at the time, she was up against the unbeatable Peter Jackson for 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,' Academy favorite Clint Eastwood ('Mystic River'), five-time nominee Peter Weir ('Master and Commander') and fellow first-timer Fernando Meirelles ('City of God'). Although she wasn't expected to win for directing, Coppola, like Campion before her, won the Oscar for original screenplay.
Oscar Trivia: With her screenplay Oscar, Coppola joined first cousin Nicolas Cage as the third generation of Coppolas with an Academy Award (their grandfather Carmine won for scoring 'The Godfather: Part II').

Kathryn BigelowWhat This Means For Bigelow:
Unlike Bigelow, all three previous nominees also received screenwriting nominations, so the Academy had two chances to recognize them individually with an award. Both Campion and Coppola won for original screenplay, but if the Academy wants to honor Bigelow alone with an Oscar to match her DGA Award, it only has one shot, since nominee Mark Boal wrote the film.

On the bright side for Bigelow, she is the only one of the four women to win the DGA Award, which firmly places her as the front-runner in this year's race. Only six directors so far have ever won the DGA and gone on to lose the Oscar. So in the Battle of the Exes (Bigelow and fellow nominee/ex-husband James Cameron), being on Team Bigelow is a smart bet.
CATEGORIES Hot Topic, Oscars, Awards