Speaking with my mothers: one feminist's reflections on the challenges in interviewing older women

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This paper is drawn from a life history study of Australian women born in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Although the focus of the study was to explore the lifelong learning of these women, one of the most challenging aspects was the development of a congruent interview process. Although feminist literature provided an important grounding for the interview process, as one of the 'baby-boomers' and effectively a 'daughter' of this generation, unexpected issues relating to the interview process emerged for me. Steeped in feminist empowerment principles, the author held strong views on what made a 'good' interview – the women did not share this perspective. My socially critical view of the place of women in Australian society did not resonate with the women. Indeed a deeper question emerged: 'Was it ethical to disrupt the meanings that held together these women's life stories, especially in the last stages of their life? From making the first appointment with a woman to re-presenting her words in the final study, this project forced me to re-think both my feminism and my approach to qualitative research'. Using a range of domestic metaphors, this paper will outline the emergent methodology. The paper will use both the literature and the experience of this research study to outline critical issues that may be of relevance to feminist and related qualitative studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-46
Number of pages13
JournalQualitative Research Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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