Oral history gives voice to those who are often overlooked in conventional political histories. Thus, it has proved a particularly important tool for studying women’s history. Below, find audio clips from an oral history of a farm woman, who grew up on a homestead near Cut Bank; bibliographies of women’s oral histories held at the Montana Historical Society; information on how to conduct your own oral history project; and information on ongoing statewide oral history project focused on women’s experiences.
Jewell Peterson grew up on her family’s homestead near Cut Bank, MT. The Montana Historical Society interviewed Peterson in 1984. She recounted the social activities of Cut Bank, community changes, oil-and-gas development, the contributions of community women, and various issues surrounding reproductive health. Listen to short samples of her interview below.
Several museums and libraries across the state have excellent Oral History Collections. Click here for selected bibliographies of those collections and their material related to women’s history in Montana. Currently available for the MHS Collections.
Resources for Conducting an Oral History Project
If you are interested in conducting an oral history, you might start by reading the Montana Historical Society’s Oral History Primer which provides a planning worksheet, sample questions, and sample release forms. The primer provides a blueprint, start to finish, for conducting your own oral history.
Molders and Shapers: Montana Women as Community Builders, an Oral History Sampler and Guide is a pamphlet published in 1987, which highlighted a women’s oral history project conducted by the Montana Historical Society. In addition to great excerpts from various interviews, this pamphlet provides a useful outline for people looking to interview the community builders in their own towns. Click here to download the pamphlet.
The Montana Historical Society has also developed a primer for educators. Oral History in the Classroom provides sample assignments for students, including a family history project. It also provides models for good oral history questions and teaches the basics of equipment use.
Need to borrow the tools to conduct an interview? The Montana Historical Society would be glad to help. Click here for a guide to borrowing equipment.
Statewide Oral History Projects
FROM THE GROUND UP: MONTANA WOMEN AND AGRICULTURE ORAL HISTORY PROJECT is a Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) project committed to preserving the legacy of Montana women in agriculture. The DNRC is working with teachers, students, youth organizations, and other volunteers to collect oral histories in their communities. The project’s goal are multifaceted: “Visit their webpage to learn more or watch this program featuring five of the women who participated in the project.