History of the Project

The Pembroke Center Oral History Project was initiated in 1982 by Joan Wallach Scott (founding director of the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown University) and the Pembroke Center Advisory Council (a group of alumnae, parents and friends who support the Pembroke Center). The goal of the Oral History Project, originally called “Brown Women Speak,” was to document the experiences of women who attended Pembroke College — the women’s college in Brown University until 1971 – and the impact those experiences had on their post-graduate lives. Gradually, the project grew to include trans women and non-binary people who attended Pembroke and Brown. In 2018 the project welcomed its first two interviews with transgender students. In 2019, the project’s name was changed to the Pembroke Center Oral History Project in order to reflect the gender inclusivity of the collection. 

At the start of the project, interviews were captured on audio cassette by Brown University students and then transcribed by other students. Today, Pembroke Center archivists, alums, and students conduct interviews. Interviews are digitally captured and transcribed by an archivist or student. The subsequent audio files and transcripts, once reviewed by Pembroke Center Archives staff, are finally deposited into the Brown Digital Repository for preservation storage and are made available here.

The first oral history website was created in 2012 and was migrated to the current site in 2023. Our goal is to make these unique, firsthand stories accessible to users interested in learning about the rich history of cis and trans women and non-binary students, alums, faculty, and staff at Brown University. This site features a growing collection of digitized interviews and transcripts, as well as supplementary materials that include biographical sketches and yearbook photographs. Some photographs and other documents have been scanned from Brun Mael and Liber Brunensis (the Pembroke and Brown yearbooks), from the Pembroke Record and the Brown Daily Herald, and from the University Archives held at the John Hay Library.

The Pembroke Center continues to collect individual interviews each year in addition to annual interviews with members of the 25th and 50th reunion classes.