More than 40 years after Sister Sally Witt began recording the voices of 49 Sisters in an oral history project, you can now listen to their stories about religious and family life, labor unions and industry, the Depression, world wars, immigration, ethnicity and racism.
Predominantly taking place from 1979 through 1983, the recordings of our Sisters’ voices as well as those of 25 community residents, mostly from Aliquippa, have been digitally preserved and are available to the public though the University of Pittsburgh’s Historic Pittsburgh website.
In 1979, Sister Sally, a historian and former Archivist for the Congregation, coordinated a team of interviewers and embarked on a Heritage Development project to record oral histories in “an attempt to view the roles of religious women and the Catholic Church in the lives of people, along with questions of economics, ethnicity and labor.”
In 1995, Sister Sally also completed another set of nine interviews as part of the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society’s Voices of Faith, Years of Change project.
Sister Sally’s projects were revived under the leadership of current Congregational Archivist Kathleen Washy, who secured a Historic & Archival Records Care grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The project, Hidden Voices: Preserving and Digitizing Oral Histories on Industry, Community and Religion, was made possible by the two-year grant.
Listen to the Oral History Projects
Along with Sister Sally and Kathleen, five volunteers and two university interns listened to 5,910 minutes of recordings, transcribing 107 audiocassette tapes on to 1,625 pages of text. Hosted by the Historic Pittsburgh website, these digitized recordings are now accessible to the public. Currently, the transcriptions are accessible upon request . The volunteer transcribers on the project were Wilma Palombo, Maureen Beck, Maureen Tapolci, Kerry Crawford, and Sister Kari Pohl; the interns were Diana Crookston and Nicole Anthony.
“We are deeply grateful to our volunteers – friends and family members of the Sisters – who worked diligently and tirelessly – to bring this project to fruition,” said Kathleen.
“The project was a labor of love for me, confirming how Sisters and their families were very much woven into the fabric of Western Pennsylvania history. To be able to share their voices and memories with a wide audience is a significant contribution to the Sisters’ legacy.”