The Interplay of Oral Histories and Digitized Newspapers in Women’s Sports History

Location: S.S209 ARIA attic, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp

Time: 14h30-17h, unless communicated otherwise

Target audience: junior academic and artistic researchers

This seminar will focus on the methodology of unearthing the obscured histories of women in traditionally ‘masculine’ sports such as boxing and wrestling, emphasizing the potential of utilizing a combination of oral history sources with digitized newspaper collections. The increased digitization of historical newspapers provides an unprecedented opportunity to sift through vast amounts of data efficiently, unearthing key details such as names and events. These fragments, akin to finding needles in a haystack, serve as accessible signposts directing us to potential oral history interviewees. Oral histories subsequently open up a network of personal experiences and narratives, providing depth and context beyond what is captured in newspapers. This methodology not only uncovers hidden stories of women athletes but also demonstrates the symbiotic relationship between contemporary digital resources and traditional oral storytelling in piecing together the complex tapestry of women’s sports history.

Preparatory reading:

  1. Borland, Katherine. “‘That’s Not What I Said’: A Reprise 25 years on”, in Beyond Women’s Words: Feminisms and the Practices of Oral History in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Katrina Strigley, Stacey Zembrzycki and Franca Iacovetta, London: Routledge, 2018, pp. 31-37.
  2. Van Bavel, Marjolein. “Morbo, lucha libre, and Television: The Ban of Women Wrestlers from Mexico City in the 1950s”, Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos, vol. 37, no. 1 (2021), pp. 9-34.
About Marjolein Van Bavel

Marjolein Van Bavel is an Assistant Professor of Modern Cultural History at Radboud University and a Research Fellow at the University of Antwerp. She specializes in twentieth-century gender history and popular culture in Western Europe and North and Latin America. She is fascinated by historical actors who transgressed the dominant social and bodily norms of their time through their professional participation in the field of sports and in the market of sexualized nudity. Her current research examines the complex link between the growing popularity of sports, national identities, and the participation and exclusion of female athletes through a focus on boxing, wrestling, and cycling in Mexico and Belgium.