The Oral History Project 1983-1987 By Liz Jordan

AAUW Sacramento – Empowering Women for 100 Years

The Oral History Project began in 1983 and was an effort to interview and document memories “about their lives, ancestors, and experiences” of AAUW Sacramento branch’s 42 members who held a 50-year designation. Many of these members were born in Sacramento or came to Sacramento during the early decades of the 20th century.

The project began with a budget of $250 to purchase tapes, postage, and photocopying services. The project kicked off with a special workshop by Bruce Pierini in the art of interviewing and recording oral histories. He stressed rules like not doing an interview in the kitchen because it could make the sound hallow or we might experience unexpected noise. He told us not to interview a subject for more than an hour at a time, always bring extra batteries with our recorders, do a sound check visit and have the subject sign a release form. He taught us how to ask open-ended questions so we could get interesting stories, and how to pay attention to ask the follow-up question.

In the beginning, 12 AAUW members joined the project to do the interviews. We needed to provide our own taping equipment. We broke up the list of 42 members and began each contact by sending her a letter. Then we made a phone call to schedule our preliminary visit when we explained the process, tested our tape recorders, and had the interviewee sign a legal release form. Once we had completed an interview, we had to listen to the tape and type a transcript of the interview so there would be a hard copy as well as an audiotape to donate. Each interview took about 12 hours to complete.

On May 12, 1984, Kathryn Gaeddert, Curator of Sacramento’s new Sacramento History Center and Museum, accepted our first tapes and transcripts. The Project was able to interview 21 of the 42 original 50-year members over a five-year period ending in 1987. Several members died before we could interview them, some moved away, and a few refused to be interviewed. All of the project members agreed when they summarized the experience: “To date and without exception, each interviewer has reported having gained a new friend as well as having had a wonderful experience.”

Today, these interviews can be accessed on the Sacramento History Center’s website: