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Oral Histories of Low Income and Minority Women

Identifier: Ms-0328

Scope and Content

The transcripts range in length from seventeen to over 2,000 pages, addressing an immense array of subject matter concerning personal matters and social conditions faced by the individual women. The transcripts have been retained in their original alphabetical order. The only exception are the transcripts of Maria Elena Ortega, which are the last 16 folders of the collection. A detailed Master Index proceeds the transcripts, and a second separate index proceeds the Ortega transcript.

The interviewees, three Asian-Americans, 12 African-American, 13 Hispanic, six Native Americans and 22 European-Americans living in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Tennessee. The contents are indexed by ethnic identity, geographical location and by subject matter.

While each woman's story is different there are a several recurring themes throughout the collection, such as family life, sexuality and politics. There are several stories within the collection that talk of the depression era and the second world war. Mary Tsukamoto tells of her time in the Japanese-American interment camp during World War II and how through this experience has become an advocate of world peace.The most extensive interview is that of Maria Elena Ortega, a forty-seven year old Chicana farm laborer and organizer, who spent a difficult childhood on the south Texan border. Fran Buss worked with Maria Ortega for nearly 10 years to record her stories. Ortega talks extensively about problems of migrant workers and her own ordeal of being poisoned by pesticides.At the time of the interviews Ortega lived south of Chicago where she worked closely with a community of undocumented Mexicans.


  • 1976-1992

Language of Materials


Access and Use Restrictions

This material may be examined by researchers under supervised conditions in the Search Room. Additional conditions regarding privacy have been specified by individual project participants.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright and other applicable statutes.

The rights held by Fran Leeper Buss have been dedicated to the scholarly community.

Project Description

The Southwest Institute for Research on Women, in collaboration with the Schlesinger Library on the History of American Women at Radcliffe College and the Ford Foundation, undertook a project conceived and conducted by Fran Buss to record the oral histories of low income and minority women from across the United States. The interviews took place from 1976 thru 1990, some being one-time only, while others were collected over a period of several years.

The interviews contain sensitive material emphasizing the diversity of low income and minority women. Buss developed friendships with many of the women, enabling her to ask delicate questions about their lives. The reflections and perspectives offer new insights into almost every aspect of family and social life in parts of the Southern, Western, Midwestern and Appalachian United States.

The women interviewed represent an assortment of age groups, some as young as their mid-twenties with others well into their seventies. Buss came to know these women through mutual friends and family members. She had first started recording the women's stories through a creative effort using poetry, and later pursued a graduate degree in history, to construct an analytical framework for the stories she was recording.


4.5 Linear Feet


Transcripts of the oral histories of fifty-six women from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and geographical locations in the United States. The oral histories project was created and conducted by Fran Leeper Buss, in collaboration with The Southwest Institute for Research on Women at the University of Arizona. Fran Buss sought to give poor and minority women a forum. Their histories cover a wide range of subject matter, each woman speaking candidly about her own life's conditions and critical issues including family life, roles in the community, and employment.


  1. RG92-19 Southwest Institute for Research on Women

Related Material

Duplicate copies of these transcripts have been deposited at the following libraries: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin Walter Royal Davis Library, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, North Carolina General Library, University of California at Davis, Davis, California Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan University of Arizona Library, Tucson, Arizona The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts Supplementary materials, tapes, photographs, and restricted portions of the collection are housed at the Schlesinger Library.


Contact Information

  1. Archives and Special Collections
  2. New Mexico State University Library
  3. P.O. Box 30006
  4. Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003-8006
  5. Phone: (505) 646-3839
  6. Fax: (505) 646-7477
  7. Email:
  8. URL:


Inventory of the Oral Histories of Low Income and Minority Women, 1976-1992
Edited Full Draft
Processed by Marah deMeule and Christine Moreland
© 2000
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//New Mexico State University::Archives and Special Collections//TEXT (US::NmLcU::Ms 328:: Oral Histories of Low Income and Minority Women)//EN" "nmlcu1ms328.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the New Mexico State University Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

Branson Hall
PO Box 30006
MSC 3475
Las Cruces New Mexico 88003 USA