The Women of Rock: Discover an Oral History Project That Features Pioneering Women in Rock Music

If you’ve won­dered why projects cel­e­brat­ing women in the his­to­ry of rock are need­ed, maybe all you need to do is lis­ten to women in rock. Sto­ries of boys’ clubs in the indus­try, from record labels to jour­nal­ists to fan­doms, are ubiq­ui­tous, which is why so many voic­es are pushed to the mar­gins, say rock his­to­ri­ans like Tanya Pear­son, direc­tor of the Women of Rock oral his­to­ry project.

Mar­gin­al­iza­tion hap­pens not only on stages and stu­dios but at the lev­el of mem­o­ry and preser­va­tion. “Canons influ­ence how we remem­ber the past,” Pear­son writes. “Rock jour­nal­ism, media, and schol­ar­ship per­pet­u­ates a one sided, andro­cen­tric rock nar­ra­tive…. Women do not eas­i­ly fit and so they con­tin­ue to be under­rep­re­sent­ed. If they are rep­re­sent­ed at all, they are not giv­en the same lev­el of atten­tion or grant­ed the same access to audi­ence as their male coun­ter­parts.”

Women of Rock, a “col­lec­tion of dig­i­tal inter­views and writ­ten tran­scripts housed at the Sophia Smith Col­lec­tion at Smith col­lege,” focus­es “pri­mar­i­ly on artists who have been left out of the pop­u­lar rock nar­ra­tives.”

Pear­son and her vol­un­teer col­lab­o­ra­tors hope that “by cre­at­ing space for women, trans, and gen­der non­con­form­ing artists to share their per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al his­to­ries” the project can “con­tribute to their per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al his­to­ries and accu­rate pop­u­lar rock nar­ra­tives.”

Pear­son cre­at­ed the project while an under­grad­u­ate at Smith, find­ing her­self “frus­trat­ed by the scant details avail­able about her favorite musi­cians,” writes Sharon Han­non at Please Kill Me. “The main rea­son I start­ed this project,” she tells Han­non, “was that it’s some­thing I wish I had access to when I was 13 or 14,” a time in her life when she was “des­per­ate­ly search­ing for rep­re­sen­ta­tion.” The prob­lem wasn’t that women like her did not exist in rock, but that she couldn’t find out much about them.

The site’s cur­rent ros­ter of inter­vie­wees is an inter­est­ing and impres­sive mix. It includes women who have been inte­gral to punk, indie, and alter­na­tive rock—like Lydia Lunch (fur­ther up), Nina Gor­don and Louise Post of Veru­ca Salt, Alice Bag, Shirley Man­son, Julie Cafritz, Melis­sa Auf der Mauer, Kristin Hersh, Mary Tim­o­ny, Kira Rossel­er, JD Sam­son, Aman­da Palmer, and Exene Cer­van­ka. (Sad­ly, Kim Shat­tuck of the Muffs, who passed away recent­ly, isn’t fea­tured.) And there are less­er-known artists who deserve a much wider audi­ence, like Brie (Howard) Dar­ling, a mem­ber of the crim­i­nal­ly under­rat­ed Fan­ny, and whose full inter­view you can see below.

All of these women have sto­ries to tell about sur­viv­ing in a “male dom­i­nat­ed busi­ness” as Tra­cy Bon­ham says in the trail­er at the top of the post. Sto­ries about “the patri­ar­chal sys­tem,” as Shirley Man­son says in her inter­view fur­ther up, “that allows men to thrive” and push­es women out. All of these musi­cians also tell us sto­ries about themselves—their child­hoods, influ­ences, strug­gles, and pas­sions, leav­ing behind a record in which future women rock­ers and rock his­to­ri­ans among the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of 13- and 14-year-old kids can see them­selves.

See the pro­jec­t’s YouTube chan­nel for more full inter­views and inter­view clips and vis­it the Women of  Rock site for more.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Meet Fan­ny, the First Female Rock Band to Top the Charts: “They Were Just Colos­sal and Won­der­ful, and Nobody’s Ever Men­tioned Them”

New Web Project Immor­tal­izes the Over­looked Women Who Helped Cre­ate Rock and Roll in the 1950s

How Joan Jett Start­ed the Run­aways at 15 and Faced Down Every Bar­ri­er for Women in Rock and Roll

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.