Collection Spotlight: The Women’s Center Oral History Collection

Women's Center2The Archives recently finished digitizing a new collection of oral history interviews. For past several months, digitization specialist Anne Krohn and her predecessor Kacey Lewis have worked with Jane Ryan to film and digitize interviews with community members involved with the Marquette Women’s Center.

The Women’s Center began with a conference called “The Changing Role of Women in the 70s” at Northern Michigan University in 1972. From 1973 to 1980, the Women’s Center was an office of the university’s Continuing Education branch. Its original focus was counseling women to pursue non-traditional jobs. Budget cuts in 1980 caused the university to close the Women’s Center. However, it continued as an independent non-profit organization in Marquette. For the next six years, Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church Guild Hall housed the Center. In 1986, the Women’s Center moved into its own building on Front Street and in 2013 it celebrated its 40th anniversary. It is the oldest women’s center in Michigan.

The Center has a variety of functions. It runs workshops on assertiveness training, active listening, and displaced homemakers. It also provides domestic violence and sexual assault counseling and support services for survivors of childhood abuse and incest. The Center opened the Harbor House in 1978 as a shelter for domestic violence victims. The Harbor House provides temporary housing for women while educating them about “finances and budgeting, housing application processes, employment, and educational options”. It also runs a sexual assault response team which helps women to deal with hospitals and law enforcement agencies.

The collection includes oral history interviews with the five “Founding Mothers” of the Women’s Center: Sally May, Gail Griffith, Holly Greer, Karlyn Rapport, and Patricia Micklow, as well as interviews with staff, volunteers, and recipients of Women’s Center services. All of the interviews are online here.

Interested in more information about the Women’s Center? The Archives has several collections which include material dealing with the Women’s Center. The papers of NMU’s Presidential and Vice Presidential Offices as well as the Marquette County Labor Council contain correspondence related to the Center and the decision to close it in 1980. It also contains the paperwork for a 1977 grant given to Holly Greer at the Women’s Center to study how to effectively eliminate “vocational educational role stereotyping”.  There is also an oral history interview with Holly Greer from 1981 when the Center was transitioning from a Northern Michigan University program to a non-profit organization.

Interested in getting involved with the Women’s Center? Their website can be found here.

Women's Center1Written by Annika Peterson.

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