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Digital archive: The Women of Bethlehem Steel

With the support of Lehigh’s Mellon Digital Humanities Initiative, the voices of women who worked for Bethlehem Steel are being preserved for generations to come, using a new technology available at the university for the first time.

“Women of Bethlehem Steel,” an online and digital archive, houses oral histories and photos of women who worked at Bethlehem Steel Corp. from the mid-20th century through the company’s closure in 2003.

“This archive makes available to every member of our community an inspiring and still underappreciated chapter in our city’s history,” said Seth Moglen, associate professor of English and co-principal investigator.

“These interviews reveal the extraordinary changes in the lives of women in our community, and throughout the United States, in the last third of the 20th century. The women interviewed for this project are pioneers. They proved that there was, in fact, no such thing as ‘men’s work’ and ‘women’s work’ and that women could perform as equals in every workplace in the United States once the barriers of discrimination had been overcome.”

The project is a collaboration among Lehigh’s South Side Initiative, its Library and Technology Services and the Steelworkers Archives. Lehigh spearheaded the initiative to add 10 oral histories to the 14 initially gathered by the Steelworkers Archives. The women talk about the work environment in a male-dominated industry, the dangers of the jobs in the plant and the struggles of being working mothers, said Julia Maserjian, digital scholarship manager at Lehigh’s Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning and the project’s co-principal investigator.

The Mellon Digital Humanities Initiative made it possible to bring a new tool, the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, to campus for the project. It provides enhanced search capabilities, time-correlated transcripts and an index that corresponds to exact moments within recordings, which are available as video and audio and are searchable by keyword.

The Mellon Digital Humanities Initiative is funded through a generous three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. View the collection at: digital.lib.lehigh.edu/beyondsteel/intro/collections.

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digital archive

Photo:Courtesy of Beyond Steel Collection

digital archive

Photo:Courtesy of Beyond Steel Collection