Louisiana Women in Politics Oral History Project

The Louisiana Women in Politics: Oral History Project, spearheaded by the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, will document and preserve the legacies of Louisiana’s female political pioneers and those who serve the state today. This collection of oral histories will provide windows into the often overlooked and forgotten moments of women entering the male-occupied political realm as elected officials. Not only will this project provide a historical record from important female public figures on some of Louisiana’s most notable chapters, but also their career reflections and how they navigated unexplored, and sometimes, unwelcoming territory. Their inspirational stories will serve as a resource for both scholars and future generations of women considering elected office.

Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco’s captivating video interview for the Reilly Center’s 2019 John Breaux Symposium, “Politicking While Female: The Political Life of Women,” documented her decades-long experience as an elected official and the only woman to hold the highest office in Louisiana. Underlying her informative accounts of pivotal moments for the state and for female leaders was the understanding that we would not have many more opportunities to hear from her. This realization is the catalyst for the Louisiana Women in Politics: Oral History Project. The project will honor the legacies of Louisiana’s female elected officials and provide a resource for all to access their wisdom, knowledge, and experiences.

Oral history interviews elicit the human interpretation of the past, complimenting and often complicating historical narratives, while providing a fuller understanding of traditional archival materials such as public records, photographs, diaries, and letters. Moreover, oral history provides an opportunity to document untold or forgotten stories and to credit underrepresented groups and people that may otherwise go unrecorded. While Louisiana women have served in elected office for decades, their presence is sparse even today, and their legacies go largely untold. Recording the perspectives of Louisiana Women in Politics will contribute to understanding women’s history in the state and Southern history more broadly. 

An aim of this project is to inspire more women across the state to run for office. Even with a record number of women running for Louisiana House and Senate seats in 2019, the fact remains that only sixteen percent of the current legislature is comprised of women, placing Louisiana near last in gender representation in state legislatures. Women considering elected office can learn valuable lessons from those who were successful in attaining positions, and this archive will make the collection of interviews available to anyone with access to the internet.