Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research

Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project

Welcome to Sisterhood and After, the first national oral history project documenting the memories of the women who powered the women's liberation movement.

Capturing the voices of a generation of feminist activists, 'Sisterhood & After' is a new oral history archive and website which launched at the British Library on 8th March on International Women's Day, and provides a free major resource to anyone interested in the history of feminism. The oral history project was also partnered with The Women's Library, which advised it, and directed by Margaretta Jolly at the University of Sussex. It was funded by The Leverhulme Trust. Each of the 60 women activists recorded for this project campaigned for equality and freedom in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. These women demanded that struggles for gender rights be on at home as well as in the public sphere. They describe their own experiences as girls, socialised to expect less than their brothers. They also describe a rich range of political heritages that informed British feminism, from Black Power to Gay Liberation to socialism and disability rights.

Hear and see them at bl.uk/sisterhood and the Women's Library blog.

Lizzie Thynne, director, presents on Voices in Movement at

Poetics and Politics: A documentary research symposium, UC Santa Cruz, May 15 - 17, organized by Irene Gustafson (UC Santa Cruz) and Aparna Sharma (UCLA). MFM are in the process of developing at partnership with UC Santa Cruz and this will be a chance to further share our research with UCSC colleagues.
on a panel called "Sounding Out the Archive" chaired By Nessa Johnston at (Glasgow School of Art) at NECS (The European Network of Cinema and Media Studies) conference, June 18 - 20, Lodz, Poland.

Margaretta Jolly’s article ‘Voices in Movement: Feminist Family Stories in Oral History and Sound Art’ is available in Life Writing, at http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/IXBiAXrcZdtTGFwxrArF/full#.VS11i_nF-oM


Creative sound work drawing on the Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project to show in London gallery

A single screen installation from Voices in Movement, which piloted at the Family Ties Network day Public and Personal Archives: Creative Negotiations on 4 April 2014 at the University of Sussex, will be included in the exhibition below at the Peltz Gallery, London. 

Voices in Movement is a collaboration between Lizzie Thynne (Director), Ed Hughes (Composer) and Margaretta Jolly (Producer).

Family Ties: Reframing Memory

Starts: 03 July 2014 - 10:10 Finishes: 25 July 2014 - 17:00

Venue: Peltz Gallery, Ground Floor, School of Arts, Birkbeck, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD

Sound installation, 'Voices in Movement', dir. Lizzie Thynne, with music by Ed Hughes, producer Margaretta Jolly

How might we read memory in relation to the family, and how might we enact these memories in visual form? This group exhibition addresses the representation of family memory through the lens-based works of six artists. Family Ties: Reframing Memory explores the bittersweet aspects of nostalgia, yet also questions the conflicts and contradictions inherent in acts of remembering. Suze Adams navigates the borders of fact and fiction in an exploratory re-tracing of her maternal ancestors. Nicky Bird draws on family albums belonging to others to illuminate personal, political memories connected to place. Jacqueline Butler’s poetic approach alludes to sensory memories prompted by public photographic collections and her personal archive. Rosy Martin re-enacts a lost past as she embodies both of her parents in their family home and evokes a sense of haunting using projections. Lizzie Thynne’s experimental documentary reflects on her mother’s life as well as the inter-subjectivity of all biography and choreographs memories of family and relationships from the Women’s Liberation Movement. Sally Waterman recalls traumatic memories of family conflict through literary adaptation and staged re-photography.

More info here. The Peltz Gallery is an exhibition space at the Birkbeck School of Arts.  You can see pictures of the exhibition here on the Family Ties Network blog.
Click here for a review of the exhibition by Deborah Schultz for the Aesthetica Magazine's blog.


Exclusive excerpts of the British Library's Sisterhood & After oral history collection

now online at Britain's new national women's magazine, Feminist TimesFeminist Times Magazine banner


See more at: http://www.feministtimes.com/sisterhood-after-listen-to-fifty-years-of-feminism/

ELF Debate: Fifty Years of Feminism

At the Rich Mix (in the main space), 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6LA 

ELF Debate: Fifty Years of Feminism

 22 April 2014 at 7pm

The event was a huge success and attended by more than 220 people, most of them young women. It was live-streamed here: eastlondonfawcett.org.uk


“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” 

― Gloria Steinem, 1972

What can today’s feminists learn from the Women’s Movement of the 1970s and 80s? Debate the past, present and future of feminism during this panel discussion, hosted by East London Fawcett on 22nd April and in partnership with the British Library.

In a society where the full-time gender pay gap is 10%, only 23% of UK MPs are women, and 44% of women still experience physical abuse, we ask what impact the legacy of Second Wave feminism has on the lives of women living in the 21st century. 

  • Does feminism mean something different today?
  • How do we raise awareness of the ongoing inequalities in the home, at work, and in the media?
  • Can we even agree on what still needs to be fought for? 

The evening also featured recordings from the British Library’s new oral history of the Women’s Movement, Sisterhood and After.

Feminist campaigners of the 70s and 80s deserve to be celebrated, but there is work left to be done. So how relevant is feminism’s past to its future?

This fascinating debate about the past, present and future of feminism, will be chaired by Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre. Panellists included:

  • Melissa Benn – author, journalist and campaigner for the comprehensive education system. Her most recent book, What Shall We Tell Our Daughters? The Pleasures and Pressures of Growing Up Female has just been published by John Murray
  • Beatrix Campbell – writer, journalist, playwright, social commentator and Green Party candidate. Beatrix was active in the Women’s Liberation Movement, and co-founded Red Rag, a Marxist and feminist journal. Her most recent book, The End of Equality has just been published by Seagull Books
  • Laura Bates – journalist and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, a collection of over 10,000 women's daily experiences of gender inequality
  • Lesley Abdela – expert on women's rights internationally, and is an advisor to governments and NGOs in the fields of gender and democratic development. She is also a journalist and broadcaster.


This event was inspired by, and was held in partnership with The British Library’s new feminist oral history project, Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement.

The archive consists of audio recordings featuring the voices of a diverse range of feminists discussing work, race, fashion and identity. Panellists Beatrix Campbell and Lesley Abdela participated in the British Library's project, and will talk about their contributions. Polly Russell, curator at the British Library, will talk about why the archive matters.


East London Fawcett is the East London branch of the Fawcett Society, the UK’s leading campaign for gender equality. ELF organises talks, parties, arts events, sporting activities and much more. It is 21st century activism for people who believe in progress and who want to be a part of an exciting movement that comprises a growing network of interesting and engaged people in East London. The group is open to all and membership is free.

For more information and to join the network contact: eastlondonfawcett@gmail.com

  • Event Details: ELF debate: Fifty years of Feminism @ the Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6LA, 22 April 2014 at 7pm
  • Link for tickets: http://goo.gl/gwSbJA
  • Contact eastlondonfawcett@gmail.com / press@eastlondonfawcett.co.uk for further press enquiries.
  • Follow ELF on Twitter: @EastFawcett #Feminism50

Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Female Suffrage, Second-Wave Feminism and Feminist TV Drama in the 1970s

Thursday 15 and Friday 16 May 2014, Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Sq, Birkbeck School of Arts, University of London

2014 marks the fortieth anniversary of the BBC miniseries, Shoulder to Shoulder, which told the story of the early women's suffrage movement in Britain (1890s-1919). Its importance as a landmark BBC drama documenting women's history and experience, the scale of which hasn't been repeated, is unquestioned. The symposium focuses on women's television history and the history of feminism on British television in the 1970s. It will explore how the women’s movement was represented in the 1970s, with a particular emphasis onShoulder to Shoulder, but also identify various research projects concerned with the archaeological recovery of feminist history and the contribution of women to television.

Details and booking link here.

Margaretta Jolly and Lizzie Thynne will present at this conference in the section Projects of Remembering on Friday 16 May:

Oral Histories and Remembering, Dr. Margaretta Jolly, University of Sussex, including the film, A Democracy for Women directed by Lizzie Thynne (from the  Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project.)

Sisterhood: Greenham in Common

When: Mon 3 Mar 2014, 18.30 - 20.00 Sisterhood Greenham in Common British Library event 3 March 2014 Where: Conference Centre, British Library Price: £8, (£6 Over 60s) and £5 Book now for 03 Mar 2014

British Library, London

On 5 September 1981 a group of women arrived at the gates of RAF Greenham in Berkshire to protest against the British government’s decision to locate nuclear missiles there; a peace camp was set up and remained until 2000. Over almost 20 years thousands of women engaged in massive protests at the site. Many hundreds were arrested and jailed. Their unconventional methods kept them in the headlines.

To mark International Women’s Day and the first anniversary of the Sisterhood and After website a panel of women with direct links with the peace camp at Greenham looked at how both sides tried to win the argument and capture hearts and minds.

Dr Rebecca Johnson FRSA is Co-Chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (iCAN), CND Vice-President, and director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy. As a feminist committed to nonviolent political change she lived at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp for 5 years (1982-87) and has continued to combine activism with academic publications and international advocacy for peace, human rights and security. Dr Johnson is a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials and formerly served as senior advisor to the International WMD (Blix) Commission (2004-06) and Vice Chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (2001-07).

Baroness Beeban Kidron is a film director best known for directing Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) and the Bafta-winning Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (BBC 1990). Her first documentary, Carry Greenham Home (1983) made as part of course while a film student, was filmed during a year spent at the Women’s Peace Camp. She is the joint founder of the educational charity FILMCLUB which aims at transforming the lives of young people through film. She sits in the House of Lords as a crossbench peer.

Sasha Roseneil is Professor of Sociology and Social Theory and Director of the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research at Birkbeck, University of London. Having left school to live at Greenham in 1983, she has spent many years since researching and writing about feminist and lesbian and gay politics and social movements, including two books about Greenham: Disarming Patriarchy: feminism and political action at Greenham (Open University Press, 1995) and Common Women, Uncommon Practices: the queer feminisms of Greenham (Cassell, 2000).

Dame Joan Ruddock has been Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford since 1987. Her career in Parliament has seen her hold three ministerial posts, responsible for women, the environment and climate change. Her championing of a large number of causes placed her at the forefront of both the feminist and environmental movements. From 1981 to 1985 she was chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and a high profile Greenham Common protester.

Jude England (chair) joined the British Library as Head of Social Sciences in 2006. The department led the Library’s summer exhibition in 2013, Propaganda, Power and Persuasion, and has been involved in a number of major projects, most recently:Sisterhood and After, an oral history of the Women’s Liberation Movement; the BBC’sListening Project; the development of dedicated web resources on Social Welfare and management and business studies; plus the Census, Taking Liberties and Evolving English exhibitions. Before joining the Library, Jude’s career was spent in research and consultancy, specialising in qualitative social policy research and employee relations.


Remembering Mary McIntosh 1936-2013: Forerunner of feminist and queer praxis

Margaretta Jolly and Lizzie Thynne presented on the life and work of Mary McIntosh at the SCCS 2013 workshop Queer Feminist and Social Media Praxis, who was interviewed for Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project. 

Queer, Feminist Social Media Praxis, University of Sussex, 17 May 2013 

Mary McIntosh, photographed by Margaretta JollyMary McIntosh, photographed by Margaretta Jolly

Mary McIntosh died in January 2013. For her obituary in The Guardian click HERE, for her biography on the British Library website and  links to interviews etc click HERE.  

Gay Liberation Front, newspaper cutting The Guardian 13 Feb 1971 

Sussex oral history accounts of women’s liberation feature in national exhibition

The Long March to Equality: Treasures of The Women's Library opens on 17 October 2012 at The Women’s Library, London Metropolitan University, London and runs to Spring 2013.

Women's protest as featured in Spare Rib. Photo: Jill Posener

Arrest of 16-year-old suffragette Dora Thewlis in 1907

The personal stories of women activists collected, recorded and filmed by academics at the University of Sussex form part of a major new exhibition in London devoted to women’s history and the struggle for female emancipation.

Audio clips of feminist activists talking about their experiences in the 1960s, 70s and 80s and film interviews with leading campaigners will feature alongside items from The Women’s Library collection in The Long March to Equality: Treasures of the Women’s Library.

Alongside iconic objects such as an ornamental pit lamp from the Women Against Pit Closures campaign, a Miss World board game and original posters and literature from the movement, voices include:

  • Betty Cook, who remembers how campaigning as a miner’s wife and mother became part of a personal road to women’s liberation;
  • Jo Robinson, on throwing vegetables at the 1970 Miss World contest;
  • Pragna Patel, on her role in helping to found Southall Black Sisters and a feminist concept of honour and shame;
  • Mary McIntosh, about gay liberation in the early women’s movement;
  • Karen McMinn on setting up Women’s Aid in Belfast across the religious divide.

The Sussex audio clips and films are the first results of the three-year Leverhulme Trust-funded Sisterhood and After: The Women’s Liberation Oral History Project, led by cultural researcher Dr Margaretta Jolly, in partnership with The British Library.

Star exhibits also include the prison diary of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison and a copy of Marie Stopes’ hugely controversial Married Love – the first leaflet to address female sexuality (1918).

The exhibition includes other recordings of work by women authors such as the 18th-century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and the first “domestic goddess” Mrs Beeton, read by famous names including Sophie Dahl and Sandi Toksvig.

Dr Jolly and her team – researcher Dr Rachel Cohen, film-maker Lizzie Thynne and doctoral student Freya Johnson Ross – have spent the past two years recording the memories of women who have powered the liberation movement in more recent times, so that their personal accounts can be preserved for posterity. Around 60 interviews have been completed so far.

In tandem with the interviews, the team has been researching the legacy of the crucial efforts of these women in bringing about social and political change.

The project will be the first to publicly archive a comprehensive collection of interviews with this generation of feminists and its findings will be made available for use by researchers of all ages via an interactive learning website about the Women’s Movement.

Dr Jolly says: “Treasures of The Women’s Library is a must-see exhibition that brings to life the epic story of women’s liberation. I am proud that our oral histories with some of the movement’s living legends feature so prominently.”

Womens History Network Conference 2011

Sisterhood and After presents at the Women's History Network Conference, 9th-11th September 2011

20 Years of the Women's History Network: Looking Back - Looking Forward

Held at The Women's Library, London Metropolitan University

The conference looked at the past 20 years of writing women's history; asking the question where are we now? We looked at histories of feminism as well as contemporary research in progress, current areas of debate such as religion, and perspectives on national and international histories of the women's movements.  The conference also invited users of The Women's Library to take part in one strand to be set in our Reading Room.  We encouraged researchers to choose an object / item that had inspired their writing and thinking and share their experience.

Digital Methods, Cultural Politics and Feminist Approaches

Graduate Conference, University of Sussex Monday 5 July 2010, 9 am- 6pm

This one-day conference examined the intersections of digital methods, cultural politics and feminist theory. The conference brough together Doctoral students as well as early career researchers working in media and cultural studies, gender studies, digital media, feminist science and technology studies, and queer studies. Keynote speakers were Adi Kuntsman and Catherine Redfern.