Women’s Voices, Women’s Lives – a playlist for International Women’s Day

For the past 12 months I have been cataloguing audio recordings from different archive collections; here are just some of clips that have resonated and stayed with me:

  • Women who have challenged the norm, either with their career choices, such as the circus performer, or even their hobbies; as a fan of motor sport I can see how the female football fan was almost viewed as a novelty back in the 1970s.
  • Women who have been side-lined, such as the interview with Mr. Gow about his film making career; however his wife is also briefly on tape and she shares her experiences. Mrs. Gow is none other than Dame Wendy Margaret Hiller, a film, stage and television actress who performed for over 60 years. She also won an Oscar and was nominated on two other occasions.
  • The everyday sexism that women in the media had to put up with and how these sharp and intelligent ladies quickly shut down the male interviewers.
  • I was also shocked to hear one interviewee share an anecdote about how her and her mother were accosted in the street in a notorious part of town. They escaped, unhurt, but they were deeply affected by this experience for a long time.
  • Others campaigned on issues they felt passionate about, from healthcare to housing, joining political parties and national organisations all working together to improve the lives of women.
  • Warmth, friendship and camaraderie often come through the interviews, whether it is mill girls describing getting ready for a night out or how neighbours rallied round when there was a home birth.
  • I’ve also enjoyed hearing women sharing their memories of their lives and upbringing through reciting songs and poems, as well as drama telling women’s stories. I think they really complement the family stories that can be heard.
  • Most of all I have really enjoyed listening to anecdotes of women being rebellious, particularly the flapper and her bad behaviour!


You can listen to and download the playlist from the Archives+ SoundCloud page.


1. Voice in the Crowd interview with a ‘trapeze artist’, Radio Manchester, broadcast 23 September 1972. (RMAN/1140)

Trapeze artist talks about how she wanted to join the circus when she was aged just 14.

2. Voice in the Crowd interview with a ‘woman soccer fan’, Radio Manchester, broadcast 27 April 1974. (RMAN/1141)

Long standing Manchester United football fan responds to comments about football and femininity.

3. Voice in the Crowd interview with a ‘flapper’, Radio Manchester, broadcast 13 January 1973. (RMAN/1198)

Older interviewee recalls some of the pranks she and her friends played when they were young flappers.

4. North West Film Archive interview with Mrs. Knott, 19 November 1987. (NWFA/27)

Mrs. Knott recalls working as trainee projectionist at the Grove Cinema in Hazel Grove in the 1930s. She started her career as an usherette aged just 14 and would go on to become the first female projectionist in Stockport.

5. North West Film Archive interview with Mr. Gow, 27 September 1978. (NWFA/19)

Interviewee’s wife, Dame Wendy Hiller, shares her recollections of making a film about scouts, featuring Baden-Powell in the 1930s.

6. Club Cheoil oral history interview with Kathleen Houldsworth, 16 June 1996. (CHEOIL/38)

Musician Kathleen Houldsworth reminisces about her musical family and how she “grew up in the Irish tradition from birth”.

7. Tameside Oral History Project – Here to Stay interview with Mrs. Lilavati Kotecha, 8 September 2005. (TOHP/38)

Mrs. Kotecha shares her experiences of fleeing Idi Amin in Uganda and starting a new life in the UK, including her memories of World War II.

8. Manchester Studies Oral History Collection interview with Mrs. Taylor, 11 May 1976. (MSOH/117)

Mrs. Taylor talks about how she played the role of Mary Brown in the Communist Party mock trial of Mary Brown.

9. Sweeney’s Gang with Sandie Shaw, Piccadilly Radio, broadcast between 1982 and 1983 (PICC/579)

Sandie Shaw winds up Mike Sweeney about why she performed barefoot.

10. Sweeney’s Gang with Suzi Quatro, Piccadilly Radio, broadcast in 1983 (PICC2/262)

Suzi Quatro talks about how she has tried to inspire other female performers throughout her career.

11. Extract from ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ radio drama on Top Twenty, Piccadilly Radio, broadcast 15 February 1982. (PICC/237)

Angie is questioned by Police after being arrested for smashing windows in the Arndale Centre.

12. Bolton Oral History Project interview with Respondent 50, 20 October 1981. (BOLTON/50)

Interviewee recites a short verse from memory about giving.

13. Manchester Studies Oral History Collection interview compilation on Jewish immigration, pawn broking and poverty with unknown interviewees, between 1974 and 1979. (MSOH/463)

Unidentied woman from a History Workshop event sings a song from her childhood about May Day celebrations.

14. Manchester Studies Oral History Collection Ordsall interview with Mrs. Vera Holt, 1977. (MSOH/491)

Mrs. Holt shares an anecdote about her and her mother being accosted by seaman while walking home one evening.

15. Manchester Studies Oral History Collection Ordsall interview with Mrs. Fereday, between 1974 and 1979. (MSOH/510)

Mrs. Fereday talks about traditions surrounding home births and about the role of the local midwife.

16. Manchester Studies Oral History Collection Ordsall interview with Mrs. Nora O’Toole, 1977. (MSOH/509)

Mrs. O’Toole recalls her family home remedies and her grandmother’s backyard garden which was used to grow various medicinal herbs.

17. Manchester Studies Oral History Collection Ordsall interview with Mrs. Ida McClenahan, 1977. (MSOH/508)

Mrs. McClenahan describes how she would advise women to go to their doctor for safe family planning information and advice; she also talks about the clinic set up in Salford by Una Frankenburg.

18. Manchester Studies Oral History Collection Ordsall interview with Mrs. Ida McClenahan, 1977. (MSOH/508)

Mrs. McClenahan talks more about the free clinic set up for women and recounts how she met Mrs. Frankenburg in person.

19. Manchester Studies Oral History Collection Ordsall interview with Mrs. Ida McClenahan, 1977. (MSOH/508)

Mrs. McClenahan recalls her membership of the suffragettes and the local Women’s Co-operative Guild.

20. Oldham Women Mill Workers interview with Mill Worker 8, date. (L2018/102-8)

Anonymous interviewee recounts the camaraderie in the mill, how the women used the showers there to get ready before they went out for the night.

Vicki Caren, Cataloguing Manager, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage North West Hub, based in Archives+, Manchester Central Library.

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