The Las Vegas Women Oral History Project (LVWOHP) evolved from a collaboration to build a collection of sources on women’s lives in Las Vegas. At the time it began (circa 1994), a critical shortage of information on women’s lives existed in traditional repositories and few oral history projects collected the narratives of women. By 2009, other efforts have taken hold to include women in southern Nevada’s history.
The original project focused on recovering the experiences of women in the gaming and entertainment industries with a particular focus on the decades between 1940 and 1980. Within a few years, the project expanded to include community builders and pioneers. These are the categories used to organize the oral histories on the website. Gaming includes workers throughout the hotel-casino from management to dealers to service workers. Dancers, showgirls, and headliners who worked in the showrooms are found within entertainment. Women whose actions in business, politics, or volunteerism add an important perspective to the history of Las Vegas are included in community builders. The category of pioneers includes women who were the “firsts” in a field or who literally were early residents of the city. All effort was made to reflect the various groups within the larger community. We found narrators based on suggestions by community advisors and then used narrators’ suggestions as well as individual research interests to enlarge the pool.
The project interviewers came from faculty, students, and associates of UNLV’s History Department or the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada (see list below). Graduate students have added to the collection while simultaneously conducting research for their graduate projects. Each interviewer asked the narrator a set of core interview questions which included work as well as social and familial experiences. We added questions about their early history to get a better sense of who they were and how they became a part of the city. Each interviewer could expand the core questions to suit research interests. Overall, the interviews sought to better understand the life experiences of women at mid-century in Las Vegas.
Several community partners sustained this oral history project through the years. In addition to individual donors, the LVWOHP received funding from Nevada Humanities, Soroptimists International of Greater Las Vegas, the UNLV Foundation, and Emilie Wanderer.
The online profiles are intended to provide a glimpse into the potential of the full interview and a sense of the diversity of women’s experiences. Individuals interested in acquiring transcripts or donors interested in funding full access to the oral histories online may contact WRIN directly for information.