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Brown Women Speak Oral History Collection

Historical Note

The Brown Women Speak oral history project was initiated in 1982 by Joan Scott, the founding director of the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown University, and the Pembroke Center Associates — a group of alumnae, parents and friends who support the Pembroke Center. The goal of the project was to document the college experiences of the women who attended Pembroke and Brown and the effect those experiences had on their post-graduate lives. The project is on-going and targets alumnae of diverse backgrounds, academic and extracurricular interests, and life experiences.

Interviewees represent over 100 years of Brown University graduates, beginning as early as 1911. During that time, the College for Women in Brown College was renamed Pembroke College in Brown Univeristy in 1928 and eventually merged with the men's college in 1971. The stories the alumnae tell offer an intimate peek into what life was like for women at Brown over the course of those years — they also shed light on the many paths they took after graduation.

At the start of the project, interviews were captured on audio cassette by Brown University students and then transcribed by other students. Today, the Pembroke Center Archivist hosts interviews along with Pembroke Alumnae who engage in peer-to-peer interveiws. The use of cassettes fell out of practice after 2006 as DVDs became the popular way to preserve audio and video recordings. Also during the 2000s, interviewers began capturing interviews in born-digital form using Iphones and similar devices. In 2017, it was determined that DVDs would only be created upon the interviewee’s request. Presently, interivews are digitally captured -- an effort that is funded by the Pembroke Center and Pembroke Center Associates -- and then sent to a transcription service. The subsequent audio files and transcripts, once reviewed by Pembroke Center Archives staff, are finally deposited into the Brown Digital Reposity for preservation storage and are made available on the Brown Women Speak website.

The website was created in 2012 to make these unique, first-hand stories accessible to students, researchers, alumni/ae, and other users interested in learning about the rich history of women at Brown University. This site features a growing collection of digitized interviews and transcripts, as well as supplementary materials that include biographical sketches, yearbook photographs, articles by and about our narrators, and other archival documents. Photographs and other documents have been scanned from Brun Mael and Liber Brunensis, the Pembroke and Brown yearbooks, from the Pembroke Record and the Brown Daily Herald, and from the University Archives held at the John Hay Library.

The Pembroke Center continues to collect interviews each year in addition to annual interviews with the members of the 25th and 50th reunion classes.

See also: https://news.brown.edu/articles/2017/05/speak