Women & Power

Image Courtesy of Favianna Rodriguez

Women and Power:
Sharing Stories

A Project of StoryCenter and the California State Library

“Believe me, I was thinking about what I would share, and well there is much more to tell, but I told you the most important things that have happened in my life.” Maria Coronel, My Rose-Tinted Life”, www.MiHistoria.net

Women and Power:  Sharing Stories, is a project of the Berkeley-based StoryCenter and the California State Library, in collaboration with a group of California womanist/feminist poets, storytellers, documentary filmmakers, community organizers, educators, and scholars. The effort is an extension of California Listens, with is funded by the State Library and implemented by StoryCenter. In this iteration, we explore how women experience social power.Listening Station technology will be used to record stories.

Women and Power aims to unearth stories that are not always told beyond family and community but may be well-known in those intimate circles.  We are interested in the complicated stories. We want to create a space for narratives about how women struggle with power—to achieve it, to avoid it, to grapple with the contradictions of receiving cultural messages that tell us we are powerless and without value, while our day-to-day experience also tells us that we are strong, capable, influential, and important.

Women and Power: Sharing Stories honors the knowledge contained in personal stories, recognizes literacy in its many forms, and encourages listening with care, respect and curiosity. It is intergenerational, inclusive, and culturally responsive. It specifically aims to include stories by transgender people and men about Women and Power.


We invite public libraries and similar institutions (e.g. museums and other organizations that implement robust community education and engagement activities) to join us. Our vision is expansive and focused on stories that reflect both personal and communal experiences that occur at the grass-roots, in institutional settings, or at the highest levels of professional and political spheres.

The initial effort will include a core group of 12 libraries in California. We are hoping to expand the work and develop partnerships with similar institutions around the country. Libraries and organizations will be asked to create spaces in which stories about Women and Power are generated and shared.

We are interested in the stories and also in the storytelling itself; the experience of creating active listening; how space is used to create an environment where stories are shared, and how these narratives are passed along to others. We are interested in the forms that power has taken in the past, in the present, how it is changing, and how it might manifest itself in a future that we desire for our daughters, sons, nieces and nephews, in the coming generations.

We hope libraries will join us in the joyful and provocative work of sharing and retelling stories of women and power, and in creating experiences in which telling occupies a public space that is just as important as listening.


Host libraries and organizations (i.e. local organizations) will convene 3-5 four-hour story gathering sessions where 6-10 stories are recorded using a Listening Station. Libraries and/or local organizations are responsible for co-designing the focus of their project and developing the question set with StoryCenter. They will also choose the appropriate setting for the recording operation, recruit storytellers, and manage their participation. StoryCenter will provide consultation and guidance for all operational aspects of the workshop.

The sessions will use the portable Listening Station Recording Kit developed by StoryCenter. The kit is an easy-to-use iPad-based video and audio recording device that comes loaded with an application that allows for automated storage and distribution of recordings to local project administrators and storytellers. While libraries are being encouraged to act as hosts, the kit can also be used in the field to record 2 people sitting at a table across from each other in any quiet environment.

The Listening Station and application will also assist in the uniform look and feel of the set of the recordings that are being created as part of the larger Women and Power: Sharing Our Stories Project. StoryCenter will manage the story archiving and coordinate across all the participating entities. Recordings will belong to individual participant storytellers, and will be licensed for non-commercial civic use of the State Library, the local library and participating organizations and their partners.

Project Facilitation
StoryCenter, the personal narrative and participatory media organization that developed the Listening Station Recording Kit, is funded by the California State Library to coordinate the implementation of “Women and Power:  Sharing Stories.” This is the initial phase of a broader effort to record and share stories of women and power. Future development of the project will emerge from the results of this initial exploration.
Who Will Benefit
Storytellers will have an opportunity to tell stories about their respective environments and keep a recording of their story or stories.

Libraries will add the recordings to their collection of local, primary sources and deepen community connections for their patrons.

Community organizations, with storyteller permission, will share stories in their educational work and advocacy to impact and support women, families, and communities.
StoryCenter will refine methodologies in the use of the Listening Stations and advance its commitment to equity and social justice.

Through this project a participant might tell a story about what it was like to:

  • be the first in her family to attend college or university
  • become an activist through her experience of supporting her children in school
  • watch his mother break barriers to improve the life of her children
  • confront gender norms in a way that allows for an authentic life as a trans person
  • participate in family life in a way that increases agency for his daughters
  • be the sole support of their family
  • work hard in an industry that was historically dominated by men
  • work hard at jobs historically dominated by women
  • travel to California for the safety of her children
  • be a woman who was important in the life of her community

Stories could also take the form of conversations between women, or between people of any gender, discussing ideas about power and their views about the changing roles of women in society.

Expanding Participation
All existing libraries that are California Listens Listening Station recipients will be included in the effort, along with any Listening Station Network participants.

If your library or organization would like to be included, you may apply to participate for a touring set of Listening Stations around the state. You must commit to hold 1 four-hour session to gather 4-6 stories.

To apply to participate, contact Andrea Spagat (andrea@storycenter.org), with a brief description of your interests and plan for implementation. Please include three proposed dates for your participation from March 1 – September 30, 2018.  

Examples of Stories Created with Listening Stations (not always women themed)

 Cuentos by Anita Perez Ferguson
This video was created from a Listening Station interview which was imported into a video editing platform. The video editor was used to incorporate the images.

Excerpt from Interview
Linda Hopkins and Emmet Hopkins

Excerpt of Oral History
Madelon Reiko Arai Yamamoto

Excerpt from Interview
Zoyer Zyndel and Amanda Watson


Rene Yung is an artist, writer, cultural activist, and designer, whose transdisciplinary works connect community, history, and place. A native of Hong Kong now residing in San Francisco, she is the founding director of Chinese Whispersa nonprofit organization dedicated to shining light on the overlooked history and experiences of the Chinese in the American West, through a multi-platform program of research, engagement and diverse artistic articulations including storytelling theaterwork, site-specific installations, and visual and literary art. http://reneyung.com

Norma Smith is a writer and social researcher who was born in Detroit, grew up in Fresno, and has lived in Oakland since the late 1960s. She has organized events and conferences and worked as a journalist, translator, educator, and as an editor and writing coach. Her book, HOME REMEDYwas published by Nomadic Press in 2017.

Albertina Zarazúa Padilla is Curator for MiHistoria’s Story Archive and Facilitator for their workshops. She was born to a farmworker family in Monterey, California, she attended Mills College, where she became student body president. Albertina was a classroom teacher for over 20 years and an Oakland Education Association union representative. She has served as a mentor for the National Latina Health Organization, board member of the Clinica de la Raza, and member of the Teacher Advisory Board of the Oakland Museum of California.

Laurie Coyle is a filmmaker who produced and directed Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Morena and is the web producer for MiHistoria.netHer documentary Orozco: Man of Fire was was broadcast on the PBS series American Masters. Laurie also works as a writer and story consultant, and has mentored students through the Chicana Latina Foundation. Before becoming a filmmaker, she did her undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley and co-authored a book about Mexican American garment strikers on the U.S.- Mexico Border.

Fatal error: Uncaught Error: [] operator not supported for strings in /home/e1sd47sp0zmi/domains/californialistens.org/html/wp-content/plugins/buddypress/bp-xprofile/classes/class-bp-xprofile-component.php:441 Stack trace: #0 /home/e1sd47sp0zmi/domains/californialistens.org/html/wp-includes/class-wp-hook.php(286): BP_XProfile_Component->setup_settings_admin_nav('') #1 /home/e1sd47sp0zmi/domains/californialistens.org/html/wp-includes/plugin.php(203): WP_Hook->apply_filters('', Array) #2 /home/e1sd47sp0zmi/domains/californialistens.org/html/wp-content/plugins/buddypress/bp-core/classes/class-bp-component.php(542): apply_filters('bp_settings_adm...', '') #3 /home/e1sd47sp0zmi/domains/californialistens.org/html/wp-content/plugins/buddypress/bp-settings/classes/class-bp-settings-component.php(216): BP_Component->setup_admin_bar('') #4 /home/e1sd47sp0zmi/domains/californialistens.org/html/wp-includes/class-wp-hook.php(286): BP_Settings_Component->setup_admin_bar('') #5 /home/e1sd47sp0zmi/domains/californialistens.org/html/wp-in in /home/e1sd47sp0zmi/domains/californialistens.org/html/wp-content/plugins/buddypress/bp-xprofile/classes/class-bp-xprofile-component.php on line 441