Interviewees in this collection offer first-hand accounts of the conference and discuss issues relating to healthcare, employment, reproductive rights, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and more — issues impacting women in the United States in the 1970s. For a full list of issues addressed at the conference see Planks.
About the International Women’s Year (IWY) Collection
The collection consists of approximately 700 interviews recorded during the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, and a preceding state-level conference in Columbia, South Carolina. See National interviews and South Carolina interviews.
Constance Ashton Myers, the Principle Investigator (PI) for the NEH grant which funded the work, wrote in her proposal:
“We propose [an] oral history project for the International Women’s Year national conference. The forthcoming conference will be a cultural and historical watershed in the women’s movement. More than 20,000 women of every conceivable view and background will converge on Houston to watch 1440 delegates, elected in state meetings, adopt a National Plan of Action as a guide for the President and Congress in the next ten years. The conference presents a one-time opportunity to sample the views and capture the personal histories of some of these women……..and place their commentaries in the permanent record….for future scholarship.”
After the conference and the official written report, The Spirit of Houston, the original audio cassettes were deposited with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, DC and a second set with the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.
About the grant work at the University of South Carolina for preservation and access
For forty years the interviews have largely gone unheard. But that’s beginning to change. In 2016 Marjorie J. Spruill, Professor Emeritus of History and author of Divided We Stand, and Andrea L’Hommedieu, Oral Historian, received two internal grants to digitize, transcribe and give access to a significant portion of the collection. By Fall 2018, with assistance from doctoral candidate Jillian Hinderliter, more than 300 of the 700 interviews will be digitized and transcribed.
As part of current grant work, the Office of Oral History, University Libraries, University of South Carolina is creating this online exhibit to allow full and free access to both the sound recordings and the transcripts of these interviews.