Feminist Oral History
From OHA Wiki
Oral history is an important aspect of women’s studies. This paper will discuss the history of the women’s, or feminist, movement (I will use both throughout the paper) and the use and problems of feminist oral history. Feminist oral history is a way of collecting and using oral history to integrate women into history or research agendas.1 Although the paper does initially focus on the women’s movement, it is important to note those not directly involved in the movement. The perspectives of non-activist women demonstrate that the struggle for equality and social change was widespread. As I began to write this paper, I realized that women’s oral history includes all women and the focus should ultimately be on feminist oral history, not just activist women. However, to understand where feminist oral history evolved, it is important to understand the history of the women’s and feminist movement.
Women’s and feminist oral history has taken the first of many steps in allowing the voices of women to be heard. In an environment that was dominated by men, women were neglected and forgotten in the pages of history. However, today we see an increasing dedication to tackling the daunting task of detailing the history of women – not only in the history books, but in popular culture and media as well.
As seen in the reviews and works of Woman’s Words, there are still problems that must be reconciled to present a fuller, more complete, feminist oral history. The methodology has come a long way, but the techniques are not perfect and never will be. The opportunity to give a voice to the historically voiceless comes with difficulties, but there are gains as well. Although the early women’s movement was the spring board for women and the fight for equality, it is important to remember the life stories of ordinary women. As the field of feminist oral history moves forward, the inequalities of the past need not to be remembered, but documented. Fortunately with scholars like Evans, Gluck, Armitage, and Anderson, women’s history will be recorded and accessible for future generations.
(1) Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber and Patricia Lina Leavy, Feminist Reseach Practice: A Primer, London: Sage Productions, 2007.