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Without Apology: Old Lesbian Life Stories by Arden Eversmeyer and Margaret Purcell is published by The Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project
The Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project, OLOHP, began in 1997 when Arden Eversmeyer started working with women she knew who were ill and dying in her area, Houston, Texas. Next, she began collecting stories from friends as she traveled. And now, she and others are working to collect the life stories from lesbians 70 and older wherever they are found and whenever they are willing to share them.
Arden was also integrally involved in OLOC, Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. In October 2000, OLOC agreed to serve as a sponsor for the project, helping Arden connect with more old lesbians.
There is an urgency inherent in the nature of the OLOHP. Each year, women whose stories the project wanted to gather slip away. Some old lesbians die before we are able to interview them; others become unable to do the interview.
The herstories of the women who lived through a unique period in time need to be preserved. The women deserve to be recognized for their experiences and contributions.
And, just as importantly, there are thousands of other old lesbians who need to know they are not alone.
The majority of the interviews have been conducted by Arden Eversmeyer but she has trained several other women to help in this effort. Arden Eversmeyer is the heart and soul of the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project. She has spent endless hours taking the Project from a thought that just wouldn’t go away to where it stands now. And, as 81 year-old Arden says, “I’m not done yet!”
In addition to shepherding the project forward, she continues searching for old lesbians willing to share, interviewing and processing the stories, preparing the materials to be archived for research, working on the OLOHP books, and speaking on behalf of the Project. She is also expanding her efforts to build a small, dedicated cadre of other lesbians who can do some of the work for her. Arden has been an integral part of the lesbian community for decades in Houston where she resides with her sugar, Charlotte.
Margaret Purcell has worked closely with Arden for almost a decade. With help from others, she has taken the lead on making sure the work of the OLOHP has been backed up. She is also a part of a team of women who are gathering herstories of old lesbians living in the Pacific Northwest for the OLOHP. To answer a growing demand from people who wanted to read the herstories, she and Arden have co-authored two books based on stories in the collection. At 60 years of age, she still has a way to go before she is eligible to tell her own story, and she’s doing her best to fill each of those passing years by working with the OLOHP and other lesbian organizations. Margaret lives just outside of Tacoma, Washington with her partner of 30+ years, Mary Henry.