Here are some short summaries of interviews we have completed for our Oral History project – visit the Sheffield Archives to hear them for yourself!
Hannah Rudman, an MA student in the Sociological Studies department at the University of Sheffield, discusses her background, growing up with feminist ideals, attending a girls’ school, the lack of women philosophers covered during her undergraduate degree, campaigning with Women’s Committee at the University and her experience as Chair, volunteering with Rape Crisis and working with domestic abuse services, and how the Sheffield feminist scene could be more collaborative.
Katie Edwards discusses her ties with Sheffield, the lack of a large LGBT scene in the city, the ‘working-class’ label and how it applies to her, her experiences of sexism at work and challenging sexism in academia, growing up in Rotherham, experiences of sexual harassment growing up, the intersectionality between classism and sexism, her personal history of activism and how she believes that working collaboratively rather than individually is the best way to change things moving forward.
Nell Farrell talks about her relationship with her mother and father and how this influenced her, academic achievements, how class and university intersect, her first experiences of self-identification as a feminist, involvement in groups such as Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis and Hull Women for Peace, her experience of lesbian identity, how feminist literature influenced her, how social work and activism inform one another, her relationship with the city of Sheffield, her move into writing and current ideas about feminism, and coming out to her parents as lesbian.
Pat Bairsto talks about growing up in Sheffield in the 1950s, her strong mother, her career in local government, experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace, becoming the first senior female staff member in the Council, the importance of gender equality at work, supporting other women in the workplace, how feminism mixes with issues of culture and religion, working in public sector reform, lecturing at the University, helping international students, and being seen as a role model.
Chrissie Stansfield discusses the Sheffield Film Cooperative, started in the 1970s and influenced by the Women’s Liberation Movement, barriers to women in film, Sheffield’s socialist political climate, the first SFC films on pushchair access, abortion rights, domestic abuse and girls’ job opportunities, producing films for Channel 4, the legacy of SFC in empowering women in film, films about Sheffield’s history including Women of Steel and advice for aspiring filmmakers.
Kate Flannery, born in Sheffield in the 1960s, discusses growing up in a political household and attending demonstrations from an early age, being a Citizen’s Advice Bureau worker, advising on immigration, domestic abuse and maternity issues, Women Against Pit Closures, Sheffield Council, Trade Unions and feminism, working as a support officer for single homeless women, work in the 1980s Women’s Unit, attitudes in male-dominated work environments, working on LGBT issues, the taboo around menopause, the objectification of women and the division of labour in relationships.
Rachel Bower, a poet, discusses the North/South divide, class and race divisions at university, her childhood, her discovery and journey towards feminism, the formation of arts collective Verse Matters and empowering female poets, facing sexism online, her own poetry and its influences, work, motherhood, campaigning for equality, the pressures of gender identity on children, being the poet in residence at Bank Street Arts, and the role of art in social issues.
Jan Worth, a filmmaker and screenwriter, talks about her working-class background, her experiences of grammar school and the class divide, her teenage years, moving to London and getting involved in film, not finding a place in feminism that fits her, how today’s young people have more barriers to entering the arts, the making of some of her own films and documentaries, her disillusionment with male leftism, her philosophy of filmmaking, moving into teaching film at Sheffield Hallam and also running screenwriting workshops.
Ros Wollen, a pioneering female mechanic during the 1980s, discusses her struggles in a male-dominated industry. Beginning with moving to Sheffield during her 30s, Ros recalls her education, the subsequent set-up of Gwenda’s Garage and the lesbian and feminist activism it engaged in. Her interview focuses on her experience of education, commenting on educational opportunities for women then and now. She describes her own activism; fighting sexism in the AA and homophobia in the social services. Ros recalls her experiences of fostering children as well as her own upbringing with a socialist clergymen for a father.
Tina Ball moved to Sheffield in the 1980s and sought out its activism. Throughout the interview Tina recalls her involvement with the Women’s Liberation Movement, including the set-up of the Women’s Centre, her participation in consciousness raising groups, submissions to the Women’s Newsletter, the patriarchal family she grew up in and the consciously gender-equal family she raised at home. Tina details experiences of education and formulating feminist thought during her degree at Cambridge. She describes her career, including work at Middlewood hospital, and dissatisfaction with trade unions.