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Oral History Interview: Working Women

In this activity, students will explore how women’s roles in the workplace have changed since the women’s movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The students will compare job opportunities, hiring practices, wages, benefits, and other data from that time period with current conditions.

Materials: 

Procedure:

1. Assign each student the task of interviewing a woman who began working during the 1960s or early 1970s. Distribute one copy of the Interview Questions form to each student. Have the students brainstorm additional questions to ask during their interviews. Add these questions to the back of the form.

2. Go over the process for conducting an oral history interview.

3. Have the students interview their subjects using the form Interview Questions: Women at Work. The students should record the interviews using a tape recorder or camcorder, when possible.

4. Have a class discussion on the students' findings. How have women’s roles in the workplace changed in the past forty years? What caused these changes? Are working women better off today than they were then? How have general working conditions, for both women and men, changed since more women started working?

5. Discuss also the oral history process. What information was learned from the interviews that could not have been obtained anywhere else? Is all the information trustworthy? What are the challenges to conducting oral histories? The benefits? How can oral histories be used in conjunction with other research methods to reach a better understanding of the past?