Oral History Project Captures ERA Fight in North Carolina

Two Meredith student researchers have completed an oral history project meant to preserve the fight by the North Carolina Women’s Forum to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

History majors Morgan Johnson, ’20, and Miranda Pikaart, ’18, presented about their work at Meredith’s Celebrating Student Achievement Day on April 12.

The Women’s Forum of North Carolina is an invitation-only organization that brings together women of accomplishment. Johnson and Pikaart spent the summer of 2017 and into the academic year interviewing 26 members of this organization, including Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Lena Brooker, the first American Indian to attend Meredith College.

“North Carolina was one of the crucial states that could have changed the fate of the ERA,” said Pikaart. “The Women’s Forum’s efforts needed to be documented because the fight was so intense here. While the ERA did not pass, the legacy of the work women did during that time lives on today.”

The student researchers worked under the direction of Professor of History Dan Fountain, who says these types of projects are valuable because they help preserve the voices of real people.

“It is a tool that captures the stories of the rich and famous as well as documenting the everyday existence of average folk,” said Fountain.  “It provides a record of our world in the words of those who experienced it.  It captures emotions, language patterns, and humanizes the evidentiary record by providing voices, names and faces to history.”

Johnson said this project brought women’s contemporary history to life for her.

“The most rewarding part of the project was being able to connect with so many remarkable women and learn from them. Before doing this project, it was easy to take the work women did to further women’s rights, even as recently as 30 years ago, for granted,” Johnson said. “Hearing about all the work they did to further women’s rights was a very humbling experience.”

The interviews conducted for this project are housed in the Meredith College Archives. Additional oral history projects focused on other aspects of women’s history are planned.

“The project furthers our mission as a women’s college by documenting the substantial contributions women have made in shaping our state and society,” Fountain said.

Melyssa Allen

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