Missouri State University will contribute to an oral history project that shares the stories of women who lived, worked and traveled along the famous Route 66 highway during its heyday.
The special collections and archives unit of MSU Libraries has received a $2,500 grant from the Missouri Humanities Council to assist in gathering and presenting oral histories for the “The Women on the Mother Road in Missouri” project.
Anne Baker, interim head of special collections and archives at MSU, will work with filmmaker Katrina Parks. Her web-based project for the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, route66women.com, began interest in the topic.
“Route 66 is an iconic piece of America’s history,” said Baker. “While some sections of Route 66 still exist, it is not the major route it once was. One of the ways we can help preserve its history is through the stories of the people who lived, worked or traveled on it. This project collects the stories of the Mother Road, helping us understand how it affected the people and communities along the way.”
Talking to women in St. Louis
The grant has already been instrumental in gathering oral histories in the St. Louis area. Among the individuals who told their stories were Marilyn Leistner, the last mayor of ill-fated Times Beach, Missouri, and Diane Warhover, the first superintendent of Route 66 State Park, which stands on the vacated Times Beach site.
The story of African American businesswoman Alberta Ellis was shared by her grandchildren, Irving Logan and Elizabeth Calvin, while John Butte talked about the “Gypsy Coeds” and the Model T they drove along parts of Route 66 in the 1930s and early 1940s.
Interviews in Springfield
The oral history project will continue this fall when Parks visits Springfield to talk to more women who had a connection to Route 66.
Excerpts from those interviews will be included in “The Women on the Mother Road” documentary that Parks is creating. Missouri State will also add the complete interviews to its archival collections and make them available to researchers.
There will be a public program showing excerpts from the St. Louis interviews during Parks’ visit to Springfield. More details will be announced in the summer.
Missouri State is sponsoring this program in partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council and with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
For more information, contact Baker at 417-836-4299.