Women's History

While earlier 20th century historians, like Mary Beard, focused on women's history, it wasn't until the later 1960s, that a growing number of historians - primarily women - began to develop a more comprehensive field of study. Initially, attention focused on the history of the women's rights movements. Like others involved in the new social history movement of the late 1960s, however, women historians shifted their focus from the lives and experiences of the more famous to people's everyday lives.

The CSULB Women's History Collection reflects both the initial focus on movements for women's rights, like woman's suffrage, and the broadening focus on women's work and daily lives. These interviews were initiated in 1972 as part of the Feminist History Research Project (FHRP), a community-based project co-founded by Sherna Berger Gluck and Ann Forfreedom at the Westside Women's Center in Los Angeles. Students in women's oral history seminars at UCLA in 1974-1975 and in a special 1977 senior seminar at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, along with a labor researcher in Chicago, contributed their interviews to the FHRP. Over the years, these were all transferred to CSULB Library/Special Collections and Archive.

Starting in 1976, women's oral history became a component of women's studies at CSULB. The interviews conducted by students in women's studies seminars over the next two decades were deposited in the CSULB Archive and made available for use, greatly expanding the scope and the historical timeline of the collection. Additionally, in the 1980s, two collections related to women during WWII were archived: interviews with aircraft workers in Los Angeles, the Rosie the Riveter Revisited project, funded by NEH and Rockefeller Foundation grants; and a series of interviews with women who served in the military conducted by DC area independent researcher, Eleanor Stoddard.

The resulting Women's History Collection derived from these various sources is comprised of eleven series which focus on different historical periods/moments in twentieth century U.S. history: the early 20th century (4 series); World War II (2 series); and the 1960s and 1970s (5 series).

The early twentieth century series includes: suffragists; reformers and radicals; professionals and entrepreneurs; and women's lives, i.e. a variety of "everywomen" interviews focused on women's daily lives and women and work. (Interviews with labor union activists are included in the Labor History collection.) Women in World War II is comprised of two series: Rosie the Riveter Revisited; and women in the military. The six series for the 1960s and 1970s all focus on women's movements and include: Asian American activists; Chicana feminists; feminist health movement activists; Los Angeles feminists (including members of NOW, radical feminist and lesbian feminist groups); and the welfare mothers movement.

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