Honors Senior Theses/Projects

Oral History, Women, and Institutional Space in Late Twentieth Century America

Brianna Williford, Western Oregon University

Abstract

Women live much of their lives in institutionalized spaces. These spaces, such as capitol buildings and schools, are owned and regulated by the government. To explore women’s access to institutionalized spaces in the mid/late twentieth century, I have analyzed five oral history interviews. These are with and/or about Maurine Neuberger, Karen Jensen, and Linda Stonecipher. I share pieces of their stories. Oral Histories exhibit a direct and personal recounting of the ways in which American society has regulated women’s access to institutional spaces, and how some attempted to surpass the expectations placed upon them. All these oral histories exhibit some of the ways the women were separated from men, and treated differently than men as students, athletes, and professionals. Athletes, because of separation by gender, were funneled into gendered sports. Think football versus field hockey. Academically, Neuberger in the 1920s, and Jensen and Stonecipher in the 1970s, all studied Physical Education. Into at least the 1970s, most men’s P.E. programs had separate, newer buildings, and women were taught with completely different educational philosophies. Directly opposing men, women’s athletic and academic programs focused on non-competition and non-commercialization. Professionally, all three women worked in industries dominated by men. They were P.E. teachers, Jensen and Stonecipher were coaches, Jensen was an athletic trainer, and Neuberger eventually a politician. My unique oral histories contribute to the current research by adding more voices and stories to the larger discussion of women in sport and institutional space, both popular scholarly discussions today.