By Sharon Cortelyou
April 12, 2016: One year ago, after consulting with the women who run the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project (OLOHP), we began an oral history project to document Betty Neeley's life story. OLOHP began in 1997 when Arden Eversmeyer started working with women she knew who were ill and dying in Houston, Texas. She then began collecting stories from friends in Texas and across the nation.
And now, she and others are working to collect the life stories from lesbians age 70 and older wherever they are found, and whenever they are willing to share them. The project provides digital recorders and over the course of the spring and summer of 2015, myself and others conducted multiple interviews with Betty.
Present for our four interviews with Betty were Carol Seithel, Carolyn Niethe, Donna Welling and Betty's partner, Cindy Walsh. Each interview was loaded on to a computer and sent to OLOHP. These digital recordings were then turned over to OLOHP's professional transcribers.
We received a copy of the transcript and reviewed for accuracy and errors. We also provided footnotes on several important memories. We digitally scanned a number of Betty's photos and memorabilia to send to the Project team.
The final product, a nicely bound book, was presented to Betty on April 3, 2016 at Lilly's Music and Social House during a special "Herstory Brunch." Copies will also go to the Archives at Smith College, OLOHP, and the St. Louis LGBT History Project. Thanks to everyone for making this happen. We are planning to conduct additional St. Louis lesbian oral histories in the near future. Stay tuned.