Oral History Center
Orne, Caroline Frances
Oral History Center (1980 - 1992)
Collaborative Center Using Oral History To Build Community
The Oral History Center emerged in 1980, envisioned by oral historian Cindy Cohen, as a collaboration between the Cambridge Arts Council and the Cambridge Social History Resource Center. The goal was to build stronger communities not only by documenting oral histories but by bringing people together, in one-on-one interviews, to overcome stereotypes and prejudices, believing that “...the lives of regular people are important and deserve to be documented.”
Examples of interview pairs from Cambridge, Roxbury, Lawrence, and Central America included: High school girls and older women; Spanish-speaking and English-speaking youth; Jewish and Palestinian women; Public and parochial students; and Mayan, Creole, and Garifuna women.
One of the Center’s first projects of the Oral History Center was the Cambridge Women’s Quilt. Sixty women and girls, ages 8 to 80, sewed quilt patches together to document their individual lives. They interviewed each other about their quilt and a group of youths worked with singer and songwriter Betsy Rose to compose a ballad about the quilt. In 1985, the quilt was exhibited in Nairobi, Kenya at the World Conference to review and appraise the Achievements of the UN Decade for Women.
Eventually, the Center’s work evolved into a curriculum that could be used in classrooms and other community settings. Workshops were provided to 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade teachers of Cambridge Public Schools to incorporate oral history into the social studies curriculum. This project lasted for five years, documenting 80 stories that were compiled into a book, “The Mango Tree.” A partnership with Northeastern University’s Center for Innovation in Urban Education (where the Oral History Center would move to in 1995) led to professional development workshops for Boston Public Schools teachers. By 1990, a curriculum guide was developed for national distribution.
The Oral History Center cared deeply about community accountability, and it involved community members in the design and evaluation of each program. The Center hosted folk art exhibits and educational events which grew beyond Cambridge into Boston and around the world. Several projects arose out of the Center, such as “A Passion for Life: Stories and Folk Arts of Palestinian and Jewish Women,” and The “Griots of Roxbury,” a publication that explored violence in the lives of five generations of Roxbury residents.
“Differences are used to create separations and fear because it is differences which are used to legitimize the unequal distribution of resources.” (Oral History Center, 1990). Beginning in the 1970s in Cambridge, oral histories became a community organizing tool. The Oral History Center and the Black Women’s Oral History Project highlighted the importance of communicating across identities and documenting everyday people. The Black Women’s Oral History Project included interviews with 72 African-American women from Cambridge.
Written by Kimm Topping, printed in Mapping Feminist Cambridge guidebook, 2019: https://www.cambridgewomenscommission.org/download/CCSW_MFCamb_book_190717.pdf
The Oral History Center archive is housed at Northeastern University. https://repository.library.northeastern.edu/collections/neu:cj82kw07t
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Orlov-Rubinov b. Dec. 23, 1925, in Brookline, MA, d. Jan. 5,
2007, in Tucson, AZ
Born as Betty Ann, Ann Orlov was the daughter of Meyer and Beverley Orlov in Brookline, MA. She attended Bryn Mawr College, then came to Cambridge in the 1950s to do graduate work in history at Harvard University. During this period, she became active in civil rights in Cambridge and was a founder of the Boston chapter of the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity. She went to Selma, AL, to march with Martin Luther King, Jr.. Her home in Cambridge became a center for educational and welfare reform. From 1968 to 1975, she left graduate work to become an editor for behavioral studies at the Harvard University Press. In 1974 she and Stephan Thernstrom developed the idea of creating the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (1980), of which she became managing editor. She started her own press, Langdon Press, after leaving Harvard University Press, and worked as a free-lance author and consultant.
In 1980, she moved to Stowe, VT, and opened a bed and breakfast. Soon after, she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that left her with a slight limp. There in Vermont, she worked with the Episcopal church and decided to pursue a theological degree, which she began in Vermont and completed at the Jesuit Faculty of Theology at Regis College in Toronto; she received her M. Div. there in 1996. In 2002, she reconnected with an old boyfriend from her adolescence, Dr. Merrill Rubinov; they married soon after. The couple moved to Tucson, AZ. Dr. Rubinov died there four years later, seven months before Orlov’s own death.
References: “Ann Orlov Rubinov,” obituary news article by Bryan Marquard, Boston Globe January 25, 2007; Obituary, Cambridge Chronicle (under Betty A. Rubinov) January 22, 20071-22-07
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Frances Orne (b. September 5, 1818, in Cambridge, d. February
Poet, author, first Cambridge librarian
Caroline Frances Orne was the daughter of John Gerry Orne and his wife, Ann (Stone). She was brought up in Cambridge and educated in the Cambridge public schools and at a private school in Boston, Bailey’s High School for Young Ladies. She was a childhood friend of the poet James Russell Lowell, which may have inspired her to write poetry herself. In her twenties she began to publish children’s stories and poetry, some of which had a national circulation. Lucy's Party and Other Tales (1842) was intended for children; Sweet Auburn and Mount Auburn with Other Poems (1844) described the grounds of Mount Auburn both before and after it became a cemetery. Her book of poetry, Morning Songs of American Freedom (1876), included patriotic poems, a number of which celebrated the courage of sea captains, from whom her father was descended. Longfellow thought well enough of her work to include one of her poems in his anthology, Poems of Places (1879).
In 1858, the city of Cambridge purchased the Athenaeum (founded by Edmund Dana as a private library) and renamed it the Dana Library—Caroline Orne became its first librarian. She built up the holdings from 1,400 books to 7,000, and expanded its hours of operation. The library soon required more space, and in 1866, it was relocated to the old Masonic hall at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Temple Street. Orne remained as librarian until 1874, when she retired. She was succeeded by another woman librarian, Almira L. Hayward, who remained for the next twenty-two years. In 1879, the library was renamed as the Cambridge Public Library.
Towards the end of her life, Orne became interested in her family history. She joined the Hannah Winthrop Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and published a study of her mother’s family, the Stone family, from the early 1630s, titled A Pioneer in New England (1887, reprinted 1930). When the organization published An Historic Guide to Cambridge in 1907, it included an account of her publications. Orne lived in her family home at 107 Auburn Street until her death in 1905. She is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery with the rest of her family.
References: "Friend of Longfellow: Playmate of Lowell," obituary of Caroline F. Orne. Cambridge Chronicle February 11, 1905. Orne family biographies and landmark report for Orne's home at 107 Auburn Street, Cambridge Historical Commission. Who’s Who in America (1905)
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