Oral History, Community, and Work in the American West
Publication Year: 2013
In many cases occupations brought people together in myriad ways. The Latino workers who picked lemons together in Southern California report that it was baseball and Cinco de Mayo Queen contests that united them. Mormons in Fort Collins, Colorado, say that building a church together bonded them together. In separate essays, African Americans and women describe how they fostered a sense of community in Las Vegas. Native Americans detail the “Indian economy” in Northern California.
As these essays demonstrate, the history of the American West is the story of small towns and big cities, places both isolated and heavily populated. It includes groups whose history has often been neglected. Sometimes, western history has mirrored the history of the nation; at other times, it has diverged in unique ways. Oral history adds a dimension that has often been missing in writing a comprehensive history of the West. Here an array of oral historians—including folklorists, librarians, and public historians—record what they have learned from people who have, in their own ways, made history.
Published by: University of Arizona Press
Download PDF (79.2 KB)
Title Page, Copyright
Download PDF (28.0 KB)
Download PDF (34.3 KB)
Download PDF (39.1 KB)
In 1973, I was finishing a whirlwind bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University and deciding what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. To delay that decision, I planned to start a master’s degree tory class that the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies was sponsoring summer term. Gary L. Shumway, a professor at Califor-...
Download PDF (55.5 KB)
West in the twentieth century. This introduction sets the stage for the chapters by providing a backdrop of western history and oral history along with expanded definitions of community and work as they are used in this study. Finally, it outlines the book’s contents.For years, western American historians wrote almost exclusively ...
Part I: Reflections
Download PDF (10.6 KB)
1. Stories of Community and Work in the Redd Center Oral History Program - Jessie L. Embry
Download PDF (85.0 KB)
Historian Jessie L. Embry discusses how community and work are two themes of the oral history projects she has conducted at the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies. A very personal reason for doing some of the interviews was that she wanted to preserve family history tional experiences. The interviews were more than personal docu-...
2. A Two-Way Street: Explaining and Creating Community through Oral History - Barbara Allen Bogart
Download PDF (89.7 KB)
Folklorist Barbara Allen Bogart’s essay on homesteading in Oregon and mining in Wyoming raises an interesting question: Did oral his-tory explain the community, or did the oral histories help create the community? This question is especially important when oral histori-ans study rural communities, where researchers can impact how resi-...
3. Probing Memory and Experience: The Untapped Potential of Oral History (Re)Collections - Laurie Mercier
Download PDF (80.0 KB)
Historian Laurie Mercier’s long work in oral history in the West pro-vides a setting for her to reflect on interviewing and then using the interviews in historical research. In this essay, she laments that many early oral histories are only gathering dust on archive shelves even though they have much to tell about memory and historical events. As ...
Part II: Examples of Neglected Groups
Download PDF (10.7 KB)
4. “Everybody Worked Back Then”: Oral History, Memory, and Indian Economies in Northern California - William Bauer
Download PDF (181.1 KB)
Historian William Bauer shows the diversity of western labor history when he discusses Native American work in California. His essay shows three values of oral history in better understanding the West. First, few western histories have documented Native American views. Second, until recently most researchers have looked at the experiences ...
5. Bittersweet Memories: Oral History, Mexican Americans, and the Power of Place - José M. Alamillo
Download PDF (149.2 KB)
Historian José Alamillo uses oral history to better understand the ex-California. Through interviews, he learned that in spite of the con-straints of living and working in a single agricultural industry town, Mexican immigrant workers used leisure and cultural activi-ties to build community solidarity and forge relations with employers, ...
6. “That’s All We Knew”: An Oral History of Family Labor in the American Southwest - Skott Brandon Vigil
Download PDF (100.3 KB)
Historian Skott Brandon Vigil uses his family history to understand two groups neglected in western history: Mexicans and Utes. His oral histories illuminate the experiences of migrant families who created a place for themselves in the American West while providing an essen-tial agricultural workforce in the region. Focusing on Mexican mi-...
7. “Colorado Has Been Real Good to Us”: An Oral History Project with Japanese Americans in Weld County, Colorado - Georgia Wier
Download PDF (189.4 KB)
Folklorist Georgia Wier uses oral histories to show how stereotypes over-simplify complex experiences. Many studies of Japanese Americans Americans had moved to Weld County, Colorado, before the war and created a community that was very different from the one created by those forced to leave their homes and live in camps. There were limited ...
8. Using Oral History to Record the Story of the Las Vegas African American Community - Claytee White
Download PDF (134.6 KB)
...munity in Las Vegas, Nevada. Historically there have been few blacks in the West, and few scholars have attempted to document their expe-riences. When White moved to Las Vegas, she became part of a project to document the African American experiences there. She was not surprised that blacks came west for better economic opportunities—...
9. Women at Work in Las Vegas, 1940–1980 - Joanne L. Goodwin
Download PDF (94.9 KB)
Historian Joanne Goodwin shows how oral history is important to understanding women’s history. The old western history—and to some degree even the new western history—has neglected women’s role in the West. Goodwin’s chapter shows how women no longer fit the Victorian cult of true womanhood stereotype, especially after World ...
10. “Every Woman Has a Story”: Donna Joy McGladrey’s Alaskan Adventure - Sandra K. Mathews
Download PDF (165.9 KB)
Historian Sandra Mathews titles her article “Every Woman Has a Story” and describes how she uncovered the story of her aunt, Donna Alaska but went searching for it as a teacher, a traditional female role. In Alaska, she developed a community with fellow teachers and bered her aunt and the work she had done there. Through her research, ...
11. Searching for the Rest of the Story: Documenting the Dee School of Nursing - John Sillito, Sarah Langsdon, and Marci Farr
Download PDF (173.5 KB)
Historians John Sillito, Sarah Langsdon, and Marci Farr illustrate one area in which women’s work “has always been gendered”1 in doc-umenting the experiences of women who trained as nurses at Ogden, Utah’s Dee School of Nursing. This documentation was possible only through oral history. Oral history allowed the authors to move beyond ...
12. The Utah Eagle Forum: Legitimizing Political Activism as Women’s Work - Melanie Newport
Download PDF (80.9 KB)
Historian Melanie Newport discovered that oral history was the only way for her to study the Eagle Forum, a conservative political organi-zation that has helped shape the political culture of the West. Although many of these women believe that a woman’s place is in the home, they also believe that women need to preserve traditional family values in ...
Part III: Essential Sources
Download PDF (10.6 KB)
13. Creating Community: Telling the Story of the Mormons in Fort Collins, Colorado - Linda M. Meyer
Download PDF (136.4 KB)
Historian Linda M. Meyer examines one religious community, a con-gregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) Intermountain West, Fort Collins was not settled by Mormons, and about Mormon congregations in other locations, it offers very little information related to Fort Collins. Oral history provided one of the ...
14. Every Mine, Every Cow Camp, Every Ranch: Oral History as Fieldwork - Leisl Carr Childers
Download PDF (150.4 KB)
Historian Leisl Carr Childers looks at how oral history collected in the field, the places where people live and work, complicates knowledge about the effects of radioactive fallout from nuclear testing in the Great Basin and pushes inquiry in a new direction. Her research ad-dressed the Nevada Test Site, where nuclear testing took place, and the ...
15. Oral History among the Orchards: A Look at the James George Stratton Family - Kristi Young
Download PDF (164.0 KB)
Folklorist Kristi Young uses oral history to show how the rural tradi-tion continues in what is becoming a very urban west. While the Wasatch Front in Utah has grown into one continuous city, she has found a family that holds onto the rural lifestyle and their orchards in family has formed a community within the family and extending to ...
Afterword: When History Talks Back - Clyde A. Milner II
Download PDF (66.0 KB)
...have their ways of researching and presenting a form of understand-ing. But nearly everyone early on in their lives has some personal connection to and understanding of the past. Families are impor-tant for this comprehension, as are local communities. For many people, their real “history” is not in books but in the memories ...
Download PDF (38.9 KB)
Download PDF (37.8 KB)
Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 15 photos
Publication Year: 2013