The Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project
Gathering and Preserving The Life Stories of Old Lesbians
Saving Our Stories, One Interview at a Time
It's hard to imagine today what it was like for a woman to live in a time when she had never heard the word lesbian, when there were no lesbian organizations, and when she had to be careful what she wore to the bar because a woman could be arrested simply for wearing pants, or the wrong shoes.
What We Are About…
Founded in 1998, the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project (OLOHP) has gathered and preserved the life stories of hundreds of lesbians 70 years of age and older, told in their own words.
Since the inception of the OLOHP, the Project has worked to gather, document and preserve the life stories of lesbians born in the early decades of the past century. The OLOHP was begun by women of this era, with the singular goal of ensuring that the stories of their contemporaries were preserved and that their experiences were not forgotten. For many a woman, sharing her story with the Project was a significant life experience. For some, it was the first time they felt they had a story worth telling and they were gratified to learn that someone cared.
Excerpts from Herstories
Herstories are filled with insights, revelations, humor, observations and wisdom. Transcripts can be over a hundred pages. Here, we offer a collection of excerpts illustrating a few of the hundreds of valuable thoughts disclosed by the women who have generously shared their life stories.
Here on this website, you'll find three forms of excerpts: Quotes, Voices and Profiles. Quotes are shorter pieces and are organized by some broad subject headings. Voices are short samples of the audio from women's interviews. Profiles are a more in depth look at a women's Herstory.
Excerpts such as these give us all a glimpse into what it was like for these women to live as lesbians.
"We had never held hands out in public. But before they put her in the ambulance I kissed her on the forehead and whispered that I loved her. It was the first ever show of affection."
"When I was about eighteen, I met a woman while on vacation. We corresponded for a little bit. I was not judicious in hiding the letters. My mother found them and called me in. She told me that she wished I had never been born and that she herself were dead. I think my whole life from that point on focused on proving to my mother that I was a normal person and that she didn't have to wish that she were dead or that I had not been born."
By now, I’m about 19. My cousins are all leaving home, going into the service, and I thought, “Here I am, 19 and I’m supposed to do something or get married. I guess I’ll have to get married, but I’m going to find somebody that’s good looking, so I’ll have good-looking children.” (laughing) That was the reason I got married! Talk about lame!
"I had to give up custody of my children. I knew it was the only thing I could do, for their sake. I didn’t have a job. I had to move out … part of the agreement was that I would be there when they came home, to say good-bye. That in itself was a horrendous scene."
For a more in depth look at a few of the completed Herstories, including photos and other support materials, go to the Profile section.
Right now, we have profiles posted for nine women, all who were involved in the Project early in it's history, all who led fascinating lives.
Note sent to the OLOHP: What you have done is so important that I think even you don’t understand it. This will have a life of its own and be around way after we are gone. To have thought this up, seen the need, and assumed the effort to get it done is phenomenal. I really do salute you.
TF says: The women that the OLOHP has brought to us have lived remarkable lives, often solitary and private, and we are far richer for knowing these women, their struggles and their passion.
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