Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research

Hearing her: Oral histories of women’s liberation in China and the United Kingdom

Hearing her: Oral histories of women’s liberation in China and the United Kingdom. The project, funded by the British Academy, compares oral history methods used to capture, research and teach women’s movements building on results from ‘Sisterhood and After: The Women’s Liberation Oral History Project’ and ‘The China Women’s University Oral History’.

The collaboration builds on a long standing relationship between oral history and women’s movement history in both the UK and China, but unites hitherto unconnected networks of feminist/women oral historians, focused through two major oral histories. Sisterhood and After, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and directed by the University of Sussex, is partnered with The British Library, and The Women’s Library, London. The BL has archived 60 interviews, including with Susie Orbach (London Women’s Therapy Centre), Jenni Murray, (Women’s Hour), Jan McKenley (National Abortion Campaign), Jane Hutt (Welsh Assembly). The China Women’s University Women’s Oral History, funded by the PRC state Finance Department in partnership with The China Women’s University, has collected 100 lives of women aged 70 or above, including women’s rights activists, Communist Party pioneers and ordinary women whose stories document extraordinary changes in marriage, motherhood and sexuality over the last half century.  Recordings are archived at China Women’s University.

Project directors Jolly and Li met in 2011 to begin to explore why and how oral history in both continents has been privileged as a methodology for capturing women’s experience. We wish to collaborate further for three reasons. First, there are no dedicated channels of exchange with women’s oral history projects in China. Second, the collaboration unusually crosses curatorial and academic boundaries. We will compare archival strategies and pedagogical use of audio archives. Third, we share commitment to public and community impact. Li is vice-chair of China’s Anti-Domestic Violence Network and Jolly possesses activist connections that support wider dissemination.

Hearing Her: 11 April 2013

Click her for the full symposium programme: Hearing Her: New Feminist Oral Histories, 11 April 2013 [PDF 288.77KB]

The three partners from China Women’s University are:

Professor LiHongtao

Professor LiHongtao, Female, Director of the China Women's Oral History Research Center, China Women's University, Director of the Gender Research Information Centre, China Women’s Library,Chief expert of Chinese Women & Gender Library of China Women’s University. She organized a more than 20 interviewer team, and collected more than 70 interviews. The interviewees are more than 70 years old. They came from all parts of China. Their careers include workers, peasants, soldiers, doctors, teachers, engineers, family women, and so on. Professor Li Hongtao is organizing interviewers to study Women's Liberation through oral information, and actively exploring the management processes and usage patterns of women's oral historical data. These results will be published in the future.

Dr. Wang Ying

Dr. Wang Ying, Female, Lecturer, Department of Sociology, China Women’s University. Graduated from the Department of Applied Social Studies, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. Her research projects include oral history research of Xinjiang women who supported the border areas, of national women's status, of national women college students, of women's consumption of fitness products, gender sensitivity of social work education and so on. Referring to oral history research, Wang Ying has interviewed 3 Xinjiang women who supported the border areas in 1950s, and formed 3 oral history documents according to these interviews. Wang Ying has also finished a series of working papers named "Searching for liberation: the choice of Xinjiang women", "Gender division of labour under the collectivism: case study of Xinjiang women who supported the border areas" and so on.

Dr. Liu Zhaohui

Dr. LiuZhaohui, Female, Lecturer, Department of Ideological and Political Theory, China Women’s University. Graduated from Renmin University of China Institute of Qing Dynasty. Her research projects include oral history research of women who had participated in the New Fourth Army or had graduated from YanAn Women’s University, concerned about the course of their lives. Her completed interviews include “Zhang Yue Oral History”,“ZhaoZheng Oral History”,“ZhongQing Oral History”, “LiuYan Oral History”, and an interview with Zhang Xiaohong. Each transcript is more than 20, 000 words. She will use her interviews to conduct research.

Background to China Women’s University (CWU)

China Women’s University (CWU) is the first state-run institute of higher learning exclusively for women in China offering a bachelor and associate degrees. It is affiliated with the All-China Women’s Federation and academically administered by the Ministry of Education. CWU has a history of over 60 years. Its predecessor is the New China Women’s Vocational School founded in 1949 by revolutionary veterans such as Madam Soong Ching Ling, He Xiangning, Cai Chang, Deng Yingchao and Kang Keqing. Later it was renamed the Women Cadres’ School of All-China Women’s Federation. In 1984, it was promoted as the Administrators’ College of All-China Women’s Federation, the first adult women college of its kind in China. To meet the increasing demand for learning from women of all circles, its name was again changed into China Women Administrators’ College in 1987. In 1993, the College was relocated and expanded, and in 1995 got the present name China Women’s University, which was inscribed by Mr. Jiang Zemin, then General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and President of the People's Republic of China. The year 1996 saw its launch of undergraduate courses and the first enrollment of high school graduates. In February 2002, the Ministry of Education approved its transformation to a regular institution of higher learning offering bachelor degrees. In 2005, CWU successfully passed the academic level accreditation sponsored by the Ministry of Education. Now with a faculty of over 400 and a full-time student body of around 5,400, it provides different levels of education including undergraduate courses, vocational courses, degree programs for adults, training programs for women cadres, and graduate studies (joint program), etc. You can find out more about China Women’s University, which is the partner to the University of Sussex in this project at: