Fran Leeper Buss, a former welfare recipient who earned a PhD in history and became a pioneer in the field of oral history, has for forty years dedicated herself to the goal of collecting the stories of marginal and working-class U.S. women. Memory, Meaning, and Resistance is based on over 100 oral histories gathered from women from a variety of racial, ethnic, and geographical backgrounds, including a traditional Mexican American midwife, a Latina poet and organizer for the United Farm Workers, and an African American union and freedom movement organizer. Buss now analyzes this body of work, identifying common themes in women’s lives and resistance that unite the oral histories she has gathered. From the beginning, her work has shed light on the inseparable, compounding effects of gender, race, ethnicity, and class on women’s lives—what is now commonly called intersectionality. Memory, Meaning, and Resistance is structured thematically, with each chapter analyzing a concept that runs through the oral histories, e.g., agency, activism, religion. The result is a testament to women’s individual and collective strength, and an invaluable guide for students and researchers, on how to effectively and sensitively conduct oral histories that observe, record, recount, and analyze women’s life stories.
“The analysis is methodologically rich yet manages to capture the harsh realities of poverty, sexism, and racism, and the resilience of the activists. The book also sheds light on the role of spirituality in the lives of poor and working class women… An excellent resource for training graduate students to collect oral histories in a more intersectional, postmodern way. In short, we need this book.”
—Mary Margaret Fonow, Arizona State University
Fran Leeper Buss holds a PhD in American History from the University of Arizona. She has published four oral histories and a novel, Journey of the Sparrows. The original transcripts of her oral history interviews are housed at the the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America.