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DOCUMENTING LESBIAN LIVES
Student Oral History Project

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Introduction

The Documenting Lesbian Lives Oral History Project is a collection of life histories of women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, woman-identified-woman, queer, or who prefer not to identify with sexuality categories. The project provides a complex and nuanced collective story of American lesbian history and experience. Interviews were conducted by Smith College students in Kelly Anderson's 'Documenting Lesbian Lives' course in the spring of 2010 to the present. Students were trained in both United States lesbian history and oral history techniques and protocols. Narrators include grassroots activists and political organizers, educators and academics; musicians, writers, and artists; as well as community and religious leaders. They come from a variety of class, ethnic, racial, social, and geographic backgrounds. Interviews cover childhood and growing up experiences; education and employment; activism and politics; family, identity, relationships, and community.


Joan E. Biren in Dyke, Virginia, 1975 (self-portrait) © Joan E. Biren

The Narrators page includes biographical sketches and abstracts of interviews for each narrator, plus links to the full transcripts (on Smith campus only) for most of narrators.

Note: This is an undergraduate student project. The oral histories were conducted and transcribed by the students. Due to the high volume of text involved and finite staff resources for proofreading, there may be some typographical or formatting errors that we trust won't prove too distracting.

The Documenting Lesbian Lives Oral History Project includes recorded video interviews and complete transcripts. For more information view the finding aid to the collection.


Access Information

The oral histories are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection, with the following exceptions:

  • Due to privacy concerns, transcripts and streaming video are available on Smith campus computers only. Anyone may visit the Smith Libraries to view them on a public computer, or you may contact the SSC to have a digital copy sent to you.

  • The following oral histories are not available online: Wendy Essery, Ann Hackler, Andrea Hairston, Patricia Holland (pseud.), Karla Kavanaugh, Catherine Madsen, Mary McClintock, Cody Penotte, Catherine Pittman, Bet Power, Carmen Quinones, Holly Richardson, Jodie Shapiro, Rebecca Shaw, Ellen Shumsky, Susan Stinson, and Nanci Young. Researchers may contact the SSC for a copy.

  • The following oral histories are closed: Carla Cooke, BJ Entwisle's, Sharon Fagan, and Laura Sullivan.

  • Small portions of the interviews are closed and have been removed from the transcripts of: Geri DiNardo, Leslie McKenzie, Renee Ruffino and Jay Toole.

Copyright and permissions

All oral history interviews on this site are copyrighted. The transcripts and photographs are provided for educational and research purposes only. Rights have been licensed to the Sophia Smith Collection for presentation on this Web site. No other rights are extended for copying and/or publishing.

Requests for permission to publish quotations should be addressed to the Sophia Smith Collection and should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to all of the oral histories except for those of Carla Cooke and Nanci Young, who have retained copyright to their interviews. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Requests for permission to publish quotations should be addressed to the Sophia Smith Collection or the other copyright holder and should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Please cite the oral histories as follows: "{name of narrator} interview, Documenting Lesbian Lives Oral History Project, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063"


Gloria and Charmaine, Baltimore, Maryland, 1979 © Joan Biren.

Technical notes:

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 © 2010 Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063 Page last updated on Tuesday, 23 December 2014