Gender and Memory

Oral History and Women’s History
  • Mary Chamberlain


Precisely because memory is malleable, is susceptible to confusion and conflation, to lapses and lying, to suggestion and sensation, and always to the role of the imagination, oral sources have been dismissed by many traditional historians as untrustworthy, or relegated to the periphery of historical enquiry. ‘For some areas of historical study,’ Arthur Marwick reluctantly conceded in the 1989 edition of his student primer, The Nature of History, ‘relating to the poor and the underprivileged, this kind of source may be the main one available … for Black Americans in the Deep South, working class wives in Edwardian Britain, Italian peasants in the First World War, and for much recent Third World history’.1


Oral History White Hair Wedding Ring Feminist Historian Oral Source 
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  1. 1.
    Arthur Marwick, The Nature of History (3rd edn, London: Macmillan, 1989; first published 1970).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mike Frisch, A Shared Autobiography: Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral History (New York: Albany, 1990).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    For the relationship between memory and imagination in philosophy, see Mary Warnock, Imagination (London: Faber, 1976).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Dale Spender, Man Made Language (London: Routledge, 1985).Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Mary Chamberlain, Growing Up In Lambeth (London: Virago, 1989), p. 117.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Kathryn Anderson and Dana Jack, ‘Learning to Listen: Interview Techniques and Analyses’, in Sherna Berger Gluck and Daphne Patai (eds.), Women’s Words: The Feminist Practice of Oral History (London & New York: Routledge, 1991).Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Mary Chamberlain, Fenwomen (1st edn, London: Virago, 1975).Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Sally Alexander, ‘Becoming a Woman in London in the 1920s and 1930s’, in D. Feldman and G. Stedman Jones (eds.), Metropolis (London: Routledge, 1990).Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    See Mary Chamberlain, ‘Family and Identity: Barbadian Migrants to Britain’, The Yearbook of Oral History and Life Stories, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994); and ‘Motive and Myth in Migration: Barbadians to Britain’, paper presented to 25th Annual Conference of the Association of Caribbean Historians, (UWI, Jamaica, 1993).Google Scholar
  10. 25.
    Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (London: Virago, 1984).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Department of History, U.W.I., Mona, Jamaica 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Chamberlain

There are no affiliations available

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