Welcome to your autobiographical adventure!
There are many ways to write a life story, but Cameo Life Stories recommends using the Cameo Life Stories Questionnaire as a foundation. Our questionnaire is special because 1) it is specifically geared to women, 2) it is designed to help you glean insight from your experience, and 3) the standardized questions and format are meant to assist women’s history scholars.
The Cameo Life Stories Questionnaire was developed with the input of a wide variety of women--historians, educators, writers, homemakers, executives, older women, young women, mothers, single women, women of varying religious, political, economic and economic backgrounds and so on. If you find your personal life experience is not represented in these questions, please feel free to add whatever information you think is important. We don’t want any woman to feel excluded from the Cameo Life Stories project. It was created to include every woman!
Cameo Life Stories encourages as many women as possible to write their life stories, preferably using the Cameo Life Stories Questionnaire, and to share their stories with others, especially women’s history archives. Cameo Life Stories is affiliated with the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, one of the largest women’s history archives in the world, which gratefully welcomes women‘s life stories.
Consider the following questions as tools to help you remember significant influences, events, decisions and activities in your life. We encourage you to write about your memories, ideas, feelings, environment--more than just the bare facts of your life journey.
Please don’t be discouraged by the number of questions. All of them may not apply to you; answer only those you wish. Not all questions require lengthy answers. On the other hand, write as much as you like and as much as you can. You may find the question-answering process very similar to journal writing, which often has the wonderful benefit of revealing to ourselves knowledge we were not conscious of having.
We suggest you write your answers to questions on separate pieces of paper, not on the Questionnaire itself. Number your answers to correspond to the questions when possible. It’s helpful to keep all your working papers, including notes and photographs, in a three-ring binder or notebook of your choice. Please let someone know you are working on your life story, and tell them you would like it archived even if it is incomplete.
When you complete your complete your Questionnaire, put it in a safe place. We encourage you to share it, especially with a local historical society and the Sophia Smith Collection. In addition to or in lieu of your Questionnaire answers, you may submit to the archives a narrative life story, a resume, photographs, genealogy information and other relevant papers. Copies may also be submitted to Cameo Life Stories, but send archival copies to:
Sophia Smith Collection
Northampton, MA 01063
Spanish and printed versions of the Cameo Life Stories Questionnaire are available through Cameo Life Stories, cameolifestories.org. If copied in their entirety, the Questionnaire, this introductory letter and the release form may be reproduced to facilitate distribution.
YOU are important! You make history. Your life makes a difference in the world. Write your life story to gain wisdom and to share with your family and the future. Please start answering the Cameo Life Stories Questionnaire as soon as possible.
Deborah Hansen, Founder
Cameo Life Stories
P.S. If you are reluctant to share some details of your life story with your family or community, remember that you can prepare separate versions of your story. The archives prefer an unexpurgated recounting of your experience, but you can request some restrictions on access to your information.