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Women of Rock Oral History Project

Women of Rock Oral History Project is an oral history project based at Smith College focusing on American women and gender non-conforming, LGBT, and feminist rock and roll and punk music musicians from the 1970s to the present.[1][2][3]

Women of Rock Oral History Project
Housed atSmith College



The Women of Rock Oral History project was started in December 2014 as a collection of digital video interviews conducted by Smith College Ada Comstock scholar and archivist, Tanya Pearson.[4]

The inspiration for the project came from a seminar on censorship in the United States Pearson took while at Smith, where she worked as an assistant archivist at the Sophia Smith Collection while completing an undergraduate degree in American Studies with concentrations in oral history and archives. For the seminar, Pearson wrote about women rockers from the 1990s. During the process she was discouraged at the difficulty of finding widely available information about musicians she needed to find source material on, illustrating the fact that bands like L7 were not covered in detail in rock and roll history.[3] Thematic devices she saw seemed to devalue their music and their musicianship, where the musicians were subject to sexism and tokenism, especially in popular journalism.[5] The project highlights the limitations and bias within music scholarship and journalism.[6] Many of the musicians were also active pre-internet, where press and coverage weren't available online and are not digitized.[7]

The project includes written transcripts and is housed at the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College.[7][8] The scope of the project is to document the influence and history of women in rock and roll, and to bring focus to the unheralded role of women musicians.[9]


The digital interviews with the musicians is the core focus of the project.[5] Nina Gordon and Louise Post, who make up Veruca Salt, were the first band and musicians that were interviewed. The interviews include biographies of their lives and their work as musicians. A portion of each interview includes what it was like to work as a musician in the time period that they were active as well as their experiences in the current day.[7]

As a supplemental part of the project, the Women of Rock Oral History Project has conducted panels and roundtable discussions often with some of the subjects of the interviews to discuss issues of gender gap and challenges women face in the music industry.[5][10][11][12][13]

Pearson has also organized concerts, local shows, and events in support of the grassroots project, which often includes performances by subjects of the oral histories.[14] As part of these performances, another component of the project is addressing gender bias on Wikipedia and its coverage of women and gender non-conforming musicians by holding strategy discussions and Wikipedia editathons.[15]


The project has been funded by a Rosenthal Fund grant from Smith College and a Helen Gurley Brown Magic Grant awarded to Ada Comstock Scholars.[16][17]


The project includes over 20 underrepresented female musicians from various rock and roll and punk music bands that were active from the 1970s to 2010, with some musicians and bands still actively performing music. Bands are listed next to each subject below. Each musician participated in video interviews which were digitized and made available on Vimeo. There are over 29 videos that are part of the project.[18] A corresponding transcription project corresponding to the videos is in process of being created.[4]

The timeframe of the project is from December 2014 to the present.[18] The collection is ongoing, with additional video interviews being conducted.[4] Pearson has said that the priority of subjects is on women musicians from the 1960s and 1970s, in an effort to capture their stories before their stories are lost.[9] A book that focuses on the stories of pioneering women musicians in rock is planned.[17]

Listed alphabetically

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Jasmine, Lucretia Tye; Pearson, Tanya (9 January 2017). "FM Jan 10: SafetyPin Box / GameChangers / Women of Rock" (Radio show). Feminist Magazine.
  2. ^ Jasmine, Lucretia Tye; Pearson, Tanya (9 January 2017). "FM Jan 10: SafetyPin Box / GameChangers / Women of Rock" (Audio). Feminist Magazine. Starts at 33:45
  3. ^ a b Hobbes, M (14 October 2015). "Redressing Rock History: Tanya Pearson 'AC Creates 'Women of Rock' Collection at Smith". Grécourt Gate, Smith College.
  4. ^ a b c "Women of Rock Oral History Project oral histories, 2014-2017 (MS 756)" (Finding aid). Smith College. 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Pio; Chelsie; Pearson, Tanya (11 February 2016). "THHOP: Women of Rock Oral History Project [2/11/2016]" (Podcast). The Half Hours Of Power Show. Olio Media.
  6. ^ Marotta, Michael (1 March 2016). "Women of Rock Oral History Project aims to create equal representation in music's narrative". Vanyaland.
  7. ^ a b c Willingham, Leah (10 December 2015). "Women who rock: Sophia Smith Collection introduces first-ever oral-history project about female rock 'n' rollers". Daily Hampshire Gazette.
  8. ^ Drane, Amanda (April 2017). "Rocking the Project: Tanya Pearson wants to acquaint you with the women who helped forge rock and roll". Preview Massachusetts. pp. 20–22.
  9. ^ a b Drane, Amanda (25 January 2016). "Women Rock: sexism and music go together like rock and roll". Valley Advocate.
  10. ^ "Righting the Wrongs of Rock History Panel" (Video panel recording). Women of Rock Oral History Project. 22 October 2015.
  11. ^ "Righting the Wrongs of Rock History Panel" (Audio panel recording). New England Public Radio. 22 October 2015.
  12. ^ Going, Eliza (29 October 2015). "Recognizing Women in Rock Music". The Sophian. Smith College.
  13. ^ "P L A T F O R M 5: Tanya Pearson // Sam Chaplin // Sara Smith". Click Workspace. 4 November 2016.
  14. ^ Bad Cover Version (23 March 2017). "An Evening with Three Legendary Rebel Women at Le Poisson Rouge, January 27, 2017: Margot Olavarria, Bibbe Hansen, and Alice Bag". Sounding Out!.
  15. ^ Meyer, Will (20 November 2017). "Basemental: A Wikipedia Rant by Will". Valley Advocate.
  16. ^ "Smith College: Archives Concentration – The Rosenthal Fund". Smith College.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Hobbes, M (24 June 2016). "Two Smithies Awarded Magic Grants for Novel Oral History Projects". Grécourt Gate, Smith College.
  18. ^ a b Levesque, Jennifer (13 November 2017). "Valley Show Girl: The Case of the Missing Wiki Edits". Valley Advocate.
  19. ^ a b c Pearson, Tanya (21 September 2017). "2017 Teaser" (Video teaser). Women of Rock Oral History Project.

External linksEdit