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Radcliffe Begins Oral History

Scholars Say Women's History Project Badly Needed

By Maggie S. Tucker

Radcliffe's Schlesinger Library announced last week the inception of an oral history project documenting the early history of the women's movement.

The project, to be called the Tully-Crenshaw Feminist Oral History Project, is being funded by a $100,000 donation from Mary Jean Tully, former president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Documenting Information

"This is an appropriate and important project for this library because the people who were involved in the founding of NOW are growing older, and now is a good time to document this information," said Patricia M. King, director of the Schlesinger Library.

Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, a sociology professor at the City University of New York and a member of the project's board, said, "Much of the history of the origins of the women's movement is unknown....In an age where people don't communicate by writing letters much, unless you can record it, it will all be gone."

`Reinventing the Wheel'

Friedan said that the history of the women's suffrage movement that began a century ago "had practically died and been blotted out...It was like reinventing the wheel for us to unbury that history," she said.

"That's why it's particularly important that our memories of what happened [in the contemporary women's movement] are recorded," Friedan said.

The Schlesinger Library, considered to be the nation's leading repository for information on the history of women, currently houses the Betty Friedan Collection and the archives of NOW.

The project will cover the history of NOW from its founding in 1966 through 1978 In addition, the project will include information on Friedan's leadership role in NOW and in the women's movement.

Bridget C. Asay '92, treasurer of the Radcliffe Union of Students, said, "After studying and reading about the work these women did in the '60s and '70s, and also reading the works of Betty Friedan, this oral history project will bring the written work to life."

Epstein, who was chosen to sit on the project's board because of her involvement in the early women's movement, said, "I think it's important to know a history of a movement, or else people don't have a good sense of what can be accomplished in a short period of time."

Interviewing Subjects

An advisory committee is presently being formed to choose interview subjects and to coordinate interviews. The interviews are scheduled to begin in April. Project organizers plan to record, transcribe, and index approximately 40 interview series' over the next three years.

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