We’re back with another episode of the Folklife Today podcast! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher.
In this episode, reference librarian Allina Migoni and folklorist Michelle Stefano do a special takeover of the podcast in honor of National’s Women’s History Month. In this episode, Allina and Michelle chose interviews with women from across the collections who have positively impacted those around them and who are dedicated to passing down their cultural traditions.
Through these brief insights into these women’s lives, we hope to tell a greater story about how women through everyday interactions and relationships shape our society. This may be through the stories they tell, the art they make, the skills they teach, and the legacies they create. Allina and Michelle are then joined by Thea Austen, AFC public events coordinator, to discuss Thea’s work interviewing renowned rug-hooking artist Mary Sheppard Burton.
Below we have linked the collections referenced in this episode which are all available on the Library’s website. As part of these varied collections you can access photographs, manuscripts, and fieldnotes related to these interviews, so be sure to follow along while listening to our podcast!
We begin our tour through the Archive listening to the Nagashima family discuss their home cooking and familial traditions. Yoshiko Nagashima, her husband David Nagashima, and David’s mother Iyo, who was 92 years old at the time of recording, speak on Japanese folklore, foodways, their community, and their lives in Montana. This selection is taken from the Montana Folklife Survey Collection, a regional survey conducted in 1979. The online presentation also includes photographs of the Nagashima family and all three parts to this interview, as well as a total of about 145 sound recordings and over 10,000 photographs. It covers a wide variety of occupations, such as sheep herding, ranching, blacksmithing, as well as traditional music such as fiddle and accordion music, hymns, and more.
Take a listen to the first part of their interview in the player below:
The second interview is with Sarah Sohn, a farmer-gardener at Young Sohn Gardens in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This interview is part of the Occupational Folklife Project’s collection “Finding Roots: Asian American Farmers in Contemporary America: Occupational Folklife Project, 2020 to 2021.” In this interview, Sohn discusses her life-long journey as a farmer and gardener, and reflects on how her upbringing and life experiences led her to where she is today. This interview includes a beautiful memory of her bringing her dad to visit the farm where she was working, and their shared bond while looking over a field of garlic at dusk in silence.
We then head to North Carolina, where we hear from Donna Choate and Zenna Todd, two women who discuss how they learned to quilt from the women in their family. Donna fondly remembers a neighbor woman who she had helped with her quilting many times, while Zenna tells a funny story of how she ruined her first quilt and her mother-in-law’s reaction. These interviews come from the Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project, which was conducted by the Center in cooperation with the National Park Service from 1977 to 1981, while interviews were recorded in August and September of 1978. The Project’s field documentation focused on local music and dance, including square dancing, quilting, foodways, religious music and events, farming, hunting, and many other topics. It’s a beautiful and diverse collection!
Allina and Michelle are then joined by Thea who shares her memories from when she visited renowned rug hook artist Mary Sheppard Burton’s home and the impression that interview left. Images of the 12 hooked rugs in the Mary Sheppard Burton Collection are available to view on the Center’s webpage, with selected commentary by the artist. Mary Sheppard Burton co-founded the International Guild of Hand-hooked Rug Makers in 1994, and co-authored A Passion for the Creative Life: Textiles to Life the Spirt (2002) with Mary Ellen Cooper. Thea describes her experience in vivid detail, including the sights and smells of the mini-rug-hooking-factory that was Mary’s home.
We end our podcast in New Jersey listening to a few musings from Christine Cartwright, a full-time fieldworker on the Center’s Pinelands Folklife Project. The Pinelands Folklife Project Collection is the product of a three year documentation of cultural traditions in and around the Pinelands National Reserve in the Pine Barrens region of southern New Jersey in the mid-1980s. Christine’s recorded fieldnotes contain insights into both the culture of the Pinelands as well as into who Christine was as a person. In the second of Christine’s self-recorded fieldnotes, which she would record on the drive home from interviewing a local, you can hear her reflections on the demographic and landscape changes of the Pinelands region. Tragically, Christine passed a few days after the last of these field recordings was made. We hope to honor her memory and her legacy in the field by sharing her words in this month’s episode.
We hope you enjoy this month’s episode, and even though National Women’s History Month is coming to a close, remember to cherish and honor the women in your lives every day!