The Power of Primary Source

The YWCA of the U.S.A. has been, from the beginning, a far reaching and forward thinking organization attacking the problems and injustices of the times through their work with women around the world. The record keeping standards of the organization means that the detailed and personal narrative accounts of women in ‘the field’ are preserved for generations to read. I have been struck many times by the first hand accounts of injustices women encounter from African American YWCA leaders being denied their spot on the train to vivid descriptions of the atrocities of World War II. There are also moments of joy and triumph as new strides are made for women’s rights and social justice. Reading the personal accounts make me feel, if only temporarily, directly connected to the time and people. There is also¬†a unique ability to spark more empathetic and connected contemplation of the realities around me. Everything is connected. It is the nature of the primary source that evokes these feelings. Rather than reading about World War II in a novel or text book, reading a person’s feelings at the time as they are experiencing it personalizes and humanizes history and allows me to see in a new light the things around me. Instead of happening ‘back then’ it is happening as I read it and that is powerful.

This amazing ability to transform the reader to another time and place is why I am so excited to be working on this project. Hopefully when the digitized items are available for searching and viewing you will be able to be carried away as well.

image of rows of archival boxes, image of box of microfilm, image of three photographs

One thought on “The Power of Primary Source