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National NOW Times >> Fall 2006 >> Article

NOW Begins 40th Anniversary Oral History Project

By Johanna Ettin
Director of Direct Marketing

As NOW celebrates its 40th anniversary, members and activists have been saddened by the passing of so many of our early and longtime leaders. We've honored these women in recent issues, including founder Betty Friedan, former President Molly Yard, former Action Vice President Sheri O'Dell, and several former members of the National Board. NOW's history, often recorded only in the memories of the women and men who lived it, is evaporating before our eyes.

The NOW Oral History Project is designed to record and preserve the history of what The Washington Post recently described as the largest and most effective organization in the second wave of the women's movement.

The Schlesinger Library for the History of Women, at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute, is the repository for NOW's official papers. While an internal office memo or a set of board meeting minutes can tell us what happened at a meeting, and a newspaper article can give us the public perception of an event, only the individuals who were part of the action can tell us the details that make the history come alive.

Project interviews will include questions like: What motivated you to join NOW? Have you always considered yourself a feminist? How has NOW changed your life? What impact has the presence of your chapter had on your community? The original interviews and transcriptions will be preserved at the Schlesinger Library and made available for research.

The Project Director, Johanna Ettin, NOW activist since 1978 and member of the Action Center staff, is seeking funding for the project. When sufficient funding is secured, project staff will travel around the country to meet with activists and conduct interviews. We will also help activists find safe placement for NOW records currently taking up space in their closets and attics.

The NOW Oral History Project will capture and preserve voices from the past that are all too quickly fading, and it will greatly enhance the ability of scholars to analyze the history and impact of NOW, and our impact on women's lives. It will enrich NOW's documentary archives and increase their value for students of U.S. history, sociology and political science.

If you would like to be interviewed, have suggestions of others who might be good interview subjects, or would like to make a contribution to the project, please contact Johanna at the Action Center by email. Also we would like to talk with you if you, or someone you know, is interested in funding the project to come to your area, and document NOW's history there.

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