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Histories of Choice: The Evolution of a Student-Driven Oral History Project

Fri, October 10, 3:45 to 5:15pm, Madison Concourse Hotel, Floor: 2, Conference I

Abstract

My paper chronicles the trajectory of a service-learning project at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida. In January 2013, I began collaborating with two feminist colleagues – another historian and a sociologist – to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Responding to an October 2012 article written by Linda K. Kerber (“The 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: A Teachable Moment,” Perspectives on History), our original goal was to explore the historical context of Roe v. Wade by training student volunteers to conduct oral histories of women within our local counties who had terminated pregnancies in the pre-Roe period.

Our project has since moved from its original impulse – to record and preserve histories that would otherwise be lost – and we are currently conceptualizing it in three generations. The first generation experienced the consequences of the pre-Roe illegality of abortion; the second navigated a post- Roe world in which safe and effective abortion facilities and services were still developing; and the third includes those grappling with an issue increasingly under attack. We are centering attention on the experiences of women who have had abortions, reproductive healthcare providers, and reproductive rights activists. In so doing, we are focusing both on the thematic threads running through multiple generations as well as the diverse experiences of the individuals interviewed. Purposefully or not, all of our respondents participated in the evolving history of abortion politics.

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