Social Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library

23 May 2013

A young woman’s response to the ‘Sisterhood and After’ website

This post is by Abiola Olanipekun, a British Library Intern. Abiola writes about her intellectual and emotional responses to the oral history extracts which are part of the Sisterhood and After website.

After my first posting for this blog went well (at least without horrific controversy), I’ve decided to write another, this time on a different topic. My first blog post here was ‘Generation Y Not’ which examined an article about how generation ‘Y’ are managed at work. This latest blog focuses on the ‘Sisterhood and After’ project.

‘Sisterhood and After’ was a research project which aimed to document, through oral history, the experiences and memories of the women who powered the women’s liberation movement in the UK during the period from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. The project resulted in 60 oral history interviews which are held at the British Library, as well as a huge, lively learning resource about the movement. It is this resource that I have spent some time looking at.

As a young woman, I am not old enough to recall some of the key aspects of the women’s liberation movement and pivotal turning points for equality in this country. Nonetheless, I can safely say that I feel a wholehearted appreciation for the liberation movement. I also feel a genuine appreciation for the project of ‘Sisterhood and After’ which has documented the movement through dedicated and uncompromising research.

SMALL Angrysisters

Above: Why Miss World? Pamphlet © Jo Robinson, Sally Alexander, Jennie Fortune, Mary Kelly and a collective of other protesters. The Miss World Protest was held in November 1970.

When I listened to excerpts such as “The Feelings Behind the Slogans”, “Contraception and controlling poor women's bodies” or “The experience of having an abortion”, I was filled with a sense of another era. Despite being from a different generation to the participants of the movement, I still feel that their era is close to my own: this society is still not completely fair in its treatment of men and women and I personally feel that it still does not respond with equity to women. Indeed, recent news stories suggest that the position of women in society may be worsening.

Feminism is something that I have related to more and more over the years. Perhaps it is because I have always been an avid reader with a curiosity for history and real life experiences, but also (and perhaps more significantly?) because I believe in sustained, long-term equality for all. I (not so privately now) consider myself to be a liberal feminist (I’m usually not one for labels, but I’ll wear this one with pride). The ‘Sisterhood and After’ website has helped me to think further about my own feminism and to relate to the women who helped power improvements to women’s lives in this country.

I could try to do more to really describe the special quality of the extracts on the website and the emotive and evocative nature of each recording, but perhaps it is better to listen yourself?  Click here to listen to the experieces of others; like me you may find their words to be both painful and insightful. To me they are for both your emotions and intellect to experience.


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