Women's Oral History in Use
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Women’s Oral History in Use
Since women’s studies became a legitimate discipline, there have been numerous applications for women’s oral history. While doing research for this section, I search Google for women’s movement and oral history projects and got a return of more than ten pages. Universities and public and private organizations have completed women’s oral history projects and many are available for public use. Below are some varying forms of use for women’s oral history.
The Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) of the University of Berkeley Library in California is the home of the Suffragists Oral History Project. This project was completed in the early 1970s with Gluck collecting interviews from seven major figures within the suffragist movement – Alice Paul, Burnita Shelton Matthews, Sara Bard Field, Helen Valeska Bary, Jeanette Rankin, Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, and Mabel Vernon. The activists offer a view into their world and the problems they confronted during the fight for equality. Also includes are five more interviews in, “The Suffragists: From Tea-Parties to Prison.” These women, Sylvie Thygeson, Jessie Haver Butler, Miriam Allen deFord, Laura Ellsworth Seiler, and Ernestine Kettler depict the diversity within the movement and the motivation(s) behind the campaign as “rank-and-file” suffragists. ROHO saw this as an opportunity to document the stories of the women within the movement, particularly on the campaign of the Nation Woman’s Party. Even though the contribution is small in scale, with a total of only twelve interviews, it offers a voice not only to the leaders, but also the “ordinary” women within the movement.
Judith Ezekiel chronicles the second wave movement in Dayton, Ohio in her book Feminism in the Heartland. Ezekiel weaves ninety-five voices into the story, but focuses on the organizations that were central to the movement. The stories of three generations of activists are described.24 Ezekiel’s focus is unlike many others in the fact that she concentrates on a small city and the affects the movement had on the city.
The documentary film Union Maids tells the story of three women involved in the worker’s movement during the 1930s in Chicago. The directors, Jim Klein, Miles Mogulescu, and Julia Reichert utilize archival material to depict the riots, rallies, working conditions, and police brutality associated with the union movement. The women, Stella, Kate, and Sylvia, are solely responsible for all of the narration within the film and their voices are supplemented with music and songs of the union force. The film centers on the worker’s movement, but the narrators discuss the inequalities women faced and how the two movements were connected. The voices tell the story of oppression, not only at work, but also in the home. They weave in a feminist view as they speak of women’s rights and abilities. This film represents another use of feminist oral history and how it can be applied in different forms – in book, journal, article, or film.
(24) Judith Ezekiel, Feminism in the Heartland (Columbus, OH: The Ohio University Press, 2002), xi.