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Release: Immediate

July 13, 2001

Iowa Women's Archives undertakes oral history project

IOWA CITY -- The Iowa Women's Archives of the University of Iowa Libraries has been awarded a grant from the state Historical Resource Development to conduct an oral history project that documents transformation of the roles of Iowa farm women.

The $7,348 grant for the project, "Voices from the Land: An Oral Documentary Project in Iowa," will focus on women's changing roles in the farm crises and the sustainable agriculture sector. Doris Malkmus, project archivist, will conduct interviews with15 Iowa farm women who witnessed, supported, or actively participated in the grassroots farm protests of the 1960s and 80s.

At a ceremony held recently, state Representative Vicki Lensing presented Malkmus and UI archives curator Karen Mason a ceremonial check for the project.

"The Iowa Women's Archives is undertaking a wonderful project for the state of Iowa after receiving this grant. An oral history by Iowa women describing their changing roles on the family farm and their impact on the farm crises will be a valuable resource for this and future generations," Lensing remarked at the ceremony.

The project is expected to create a more comprehensive account of the farm crises than already exists by preserving farm women's memories of their experiences. To date, women's role in farm activism has not been well documented in historical collections, although, in the 1960s, for example, farm women were instrumental in organizing farmers to gain some control over commodity prices.

In the 1980s farm women played a more visible leadership role. They also accepted new roles, seeking off-the-farm employment and performing fieldwork to prevent farm foreclosures during a time of falling land prices and high interest rates.

"The farm crises changed rural Iowa, and it changed the lives of many women and their families," said Kären Mason, curator of the Iowa Women's Archives.

"Some women left the farm, some families broke under the strain, and some women found their voices for the first time. 'Voices from the Land' will record in women's own words their experiences of the farm crises and the resulting impact on the rural social fabric."

Color slides and black and white photographs will be taken to enhance the oral component of this project. By special arrangement, audiocassette tapes and transcriptions of all interviews will be available to researchers at the Iowa Women's Archives and the special collections department at Iowa State University.