chandler_oleary_route66_mapSThe “Mother Road” as it was coined by John Steinbeck has struck a chord with Americans and an ever growing international audience since its inception in 1926.  Its roughly 2,400 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles still represent the ultimate American Experience, and almost 100 years later it still beckons the traveler.   However, the narrative of the road, as conveyed by popular culture and historical works, has primarily focused on men and often overlooked the experiences of women and girls.

This project, The Women On The Mother Road: Route 66 Web-site and Oral History Project is creating a public history record that sheds light on diverse women’s experiences within  a specific but varying geography and over several decades. The time period covered by Route 66’s history from its inception in 1926 to its demise in 1985 and then to its ongoing rebirth represents a national steady march forward for women on all fronts including the domestic, political, social and economic spheres of their lives.  The oral histories gathered fit into this wider women’s history context.

That said, the American Experience is not homogeneous and a woman’s experience of a particular decade is impacted by factors beyond just the decades in which she lived and her gender.  The oral histories identified for this project reflect the diversity of the people who live and work along Route 66 from Chicago to California.