Context

The field of women’s history grew out of the recognition that the traditional history has often overlooked the lives of women and the ways women have made a difference in people’s lives. Women’s history courses often focus more on social history – the fabric of peoples’ everyday lives – than on political history.

Oral history aims to create a record of peoples’ lives, especially the individuals, events, stories, or communities that might otherwise be ignored. One of the benefits of oral history is that the records are in the everyday language of those being interviewed instead of the formal language often contained in written documents. That’s valuable to historians who want to accurately convey the past.

Historians hope to be able to make generalizations about what has tended to be true about the past, but the reality is that people experienced the past differently. This class assumed that while every individual woman is unique and her story important, there are some experiences that many women have shared, including some common gender expectations. People who lived in the same time periods and those who lived in the South also tend to share some common experiences or outlooks.

Readers of the whole interviews (available in the Elon Oral History archive) will appreciate the uniqueness of each person. Reading more of the interviews will make it possible to make more accurate generalizations.

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