Oral History of the Salvation Army's Booth Memorial Hospital

Minnesota Historical Society
Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum
Project Leader: 
Kim Heikilla, Ph.D.
Project Duration: 
Dec 1 2016 to Dec 1 2017
Project Description: 

The Salvation Army’s Booth Memorial Hospital for Unwed Mothers Oral History Project documented the experiences of women who were at the hospital from the 1950s through its closing in 1971. Oral histories were recorded with 9 interviewees including women who were at the hospital during their pregnancies and others involved in their care during their stay at Booth. The project was built on the Salvation Army’s Booth Memorial Hospital for Unwed Mothers archives-research project (Legacy grant G-MHCG-1309-02114) awarded to the Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum (MISF) in 2014. The archives-research project identified primary sources about the little-known work of the Salvation Army’s Booth Hospital and its work – common in the early and middle years of the 20th century – of caring for unwed mothers during their pregnancies. The standard outcome of this treatment was releasing the children for adoption.

Archives research through the 2014 project identified the reasons and purposes for this treatment, but did not include the experiences of the women who were part of it. The memories and insights into their experiences in the Booth Hospital, both in interactions with administrators and in their interactions with one another, are part of the untold Booth Hospital story. Preparation by the oral historian for the interviews drew on information in the primary source material identified through the preceding archives-research project. Based on this research, common interview topics for all interviewees were identified; additional research then was done to develop questions within these topics that meet each interviewee’s specific area of knowledge. The interview topics included:
• The basic story of the women’s pregnancy and need for care as an unwed mother
• The information the women were given about Booth Hospital for Unwed Mothers and their decision to go to the hospital
• The policies of the hospital as understood and communicated at the time
• Daily routines at the hospital including the chores and responsibilities of the women, and the interactions among them and between the women and others involved in their care
• The births of their children and giving them up for adoption
• Their thoughts about the work of the Booth Hospital as they look back on that period of their lives.

Interview preparation included project and interviewee-specific research. Each interview will cover the above topics but will be developed to fit the interviewee’s unique information. Project interviewees will be selected through project research. All of them:
• had been at Booth Memorial Hospital for Unwed Mothers
• had first-hand information about the hospital and the project topics
• were willing to be interviewed • be able to communicate information in an interview setting
• agreed to sign a donor form giving the interview to the project repository
• were willing to provide information about other materials, such as photographs, that could help document the history of the hospital

The project used one oral historian to increase depth and nuance of information collected. Project deliverables are the oral history recordings, transcripts, completed project forms, question guides, interviewee correspondence, and research notes. The Legal Release Agreement gave the interviews to MISF. In turn, MISF donated the recordings and transcripts, as a set, to the designated, primary repository, the Social Welfare History Archives at the University of Minnesota Libraries (part of the Migration and Social Services Collections in the Archives and Special Collections Department). 

Spiral bound copies of transcripts were given to the interviewees. Interviews were recorded using a MHS-recommended recorder which records on compact flash cards, in uncompressed .WAV audio, using a digital audio recorder and external microphone that meets oral history standards. (For additional details on oral history digital recording standards, see the Community Oral History Toolkit, “Volume 2: Planning an Oral History Project,” [MacKay, Quinlan, and Sommer, 2013] and “Oral History in the Digital Age” at http://ohda.matrix.msu.edu/). All interviews were fully transcribed in Microsoft Word following the “Transcribing, Editing and Processing Guidelines” of the Minnesota Historical Society and the “Transcribing Style Guide” of the Baylor Institute for Oral History. For final disposition, the transcription files were converted into .pdf files. The project used forms adapted from the Community Oral History Toolkit. The project donor form identified MISF as the project grantee. Upon completion of the project, MISF gave the project materials, including copyright ownership of the oral histories, as a complete set, to the primary repository. This repository agreed to accept and preserve the oral histories and make them accessible to researchers. The oral historian, project advisers, and a representative of the repository finalized the wording of the forms. Required forms included the Legal Release Form, Interviewee Biographical Form, and Interview Summary Form. See the attached required forms for templates. All work done according to the guidelines of the Minnesota Historical Society, the “Principles and Best Practices” of the Oral History Association (2009), and the “Best Practices for Community Oral History Projects” in the Community Oral History Toolkit (2013).