A Volunteer Researcher’s Story – Women’s History Revealed

I began volunteering at the Evanston History Center (home of the Evanston Women’s History Project) in 2010 and, since that time, it has become a significant and fulfilling part of my life in the community. My experience began with organizing and cataloging historical source material, including the extensive newspaper clipping files – my personal favorite being the “Backyard Chickens” folder, containing every article ever written on this slice of Evanston life!

Since those beginnings working with the archival collection, I have been fortunate to participate in two projects highlighting Evanston’s outsized role in the history of women’s rights and feminism in the United States. I first worked on the EWHP research database, assisting in validating and sourcing information to be included in the biographies and organizational histories. I am currently working on the Illinois Suffrage Research Project, compiling the stories of Evanston and Illinois women who contributed to passage of the 19th Amendment, securing the right-to-vote for women for a National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) database .

The Evanston History Center has an enormous volume of resources and a unique collection of primary documents. When necessary my research is supplemented with records housed at the Northwestern University Archives and the Frances Willard Archives, located at the Willard House site. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work is uncovering the small details in the various primary sources, which add understanding and color to the lives of these women.

Every woman I research walked the same streets as I do, lived in the same neighborhoods as my friends and were sometimes educated at the same schools my children attend. I walk past their houses and marvel at what they achieved with such limited support, precedent or power.  Evanston has a rich and unique history – volunteering at the History Center connects me to that past. I am honored to have the opportunity to bring to life the stories of these hard working, courageous and sometimes forgotten women and contribute to keeping Evanston’s remarkable history accessible

Julia Flynn, March, 2017

For more information or to volunteer with the Illinois Suffrage Research Project, contact us at ewhp@evanstonhistorycenter.org.