Friday, November 07, 2008

A Special Project

Oregon is celebrating it's sesquicentennial (150th) birthday next year. To help with that celebration, the Readers Theater Group I belong to is putting together a program, "Voices of Oregon Women." We are using excerpts of manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project during 1936-1940. Almost half way between Oregon's birth date and the present.

Not the stories of the pioneers who came from the east in ox team wagons. These are snippets of life stories told by their descendants and those who followed. They tell of the difficulties and pleasures of the lives they forged in the northwest.

None of the sections we're doing are very long, we want to do ten or so. The hardest part is deciding which fragments we can leave out:struggles with the hoop skirts, the unbroken horses to pull the stage, sixteen children in a two room log cabin, compensation for a teacher-all interesting.

The stories are told by descendants of families who came from different parts of the country in a time before we were all hearing a standardized language. Radio wasn't available in all places during the 1930's. There are expressions and speech patterns I'd never heard. I've had to go looking for the meanings of a few. "A knitter of the first water," was easy to understand even if I'd never heard it used. I had more trouble with hoodlumish "plug uglies."

These life histories were compiled and transcribed by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers Project for the WPA. The Library of Congress collection includes 2,900 documents representing the work of over 300 writers from 24states. Oregon is one of the states with access available on the Internet. They are fascinating stories.

For those interested in reading the stories, the Internet address for the home page is