Recording and writing lives

Enjoying oral history, autobiography, biography, diaries and letters, I specialise in the art and history of life narrative and story-telling across media. Dear Laughing Motorbyke: Letters from Women Welders of the Second World War  (Scarlet Press, 1997), presents letters from the extraordinary Mass-Observation Archive to explore war stories as well as arguments about women's roles. I designed my Encyclopedia of Life Writing (Routledge, 2001) to reflect the field's expansiveness, ranging from Scandinavian life-story competitions to American confessional television, African oral history to Arabic Medieval biographical dictionaries. (Recipient of Outstanding Reference Book Award, 2001, American Libraries Association). I explored fictions of memory, war and masculinity in my co-edited Critical Perspectives on Pat Barker (University of South Carolina Press, 2005). In Love and Struggle: Letters and Contemporary Feminism (Columbia University Press, 2008) explores feminist relationships as they have been expressed in letters and emails since the 1970s. Winner of the Feminist and Women's Studies Association Book Prize 2009. We Shall Bear Witness: Life Narratives and Human Rights (U of Wisconsin Press, 2014), focuses on testimonial forms of life narrative in the urgent contexts of today's wars, traumas and struggles for justice.

My current book-in-progress is Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the UK Women's Liberation Movement (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). This is based on the first national oral history archive of the post-1968 women's movement which I created in partnership with The British Library, funded by the Leverhulme Trust 2010-2013. Enjoy this at

I am also currently working with Chinese oral historians as Visiting Professor at China Women's University and am developing projects in the Cultural and Creative Industries with a particular interest in ethical trade.

Cover of In Love and Struggle

I am on the Executive Committee of the International Auto/Biography Association and on the editorial boards of Life Writing and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Centre for Life-Writing’s Journal of Modern Life Writing Studies. I am also on the editorial advisory board for Women: A Cultural Review.

I am happy to supervise research students in life history, auto/biography, oral history and testimony, particularly in relation to the history of feminism and women's social movements, locally and globally, and Mass Observation. I welcome proposals which involve creative as well as critical practice. See my Teaching pages for doctoral projects in progress and already completed.