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Your Grandmother Should Know: An Oral History of Cloth Diapers from Real Diaper Association
Spring 2006

You Only Need to Ask

You know about cloth diapers. Because you are an RDA member, we know you are already one of those people others come to when they have questions about diapers. But, who do you go to when you have questions? We think we have an answer to that question. Your grandmother should know cloth diapers.

We in the era of broad internet support reinvent cloth diapers with every new parent and every baby, but we did not invent cloth diapers or the need they address. As the era of throwaway diapers passes, we can look to see how parents cloth diapered before us. The knowledge of cloth diapers was not lost. There have been women among us all along who know about cloth diapers. You only need to ask them.

We can give depth and history to our own use of cloth diapers by learning about the solutions others found. Granted, the cloth diapers we use on our children in 2006 are seldom like those our mothers or grandmothers used because our diapers are evolving in different economic and environmental realities. We have a greater variety of materials available. We have the collective wisdom of our peers to draw on through the internet. And, we have a much more detailed knowledge of the impact of our diapering choices on environment, economy, and health.

Letís expand that collective wisdom to the history within memory in our own families and neighborhoods. Real Diaper Association has launched the Your Grandmother Should Know project to collect interviews and photographs from earlier eras of cloth diapering. We will compile an oral history, use stories and excerpts in RDA educational and promotional materials, and create an archive of cloth diapering experience to draw from in the future.

Letís learn from our grandmothers, then letís spread it around.

Project Goals

We cannot necessarily anticipate what we will find when we ask about cloth diaper use in the early- to mid-twentieth century. We ask not because we know but because we donít know. What will our grandmothers say when we ask them, what did you use to diaper your babies and how did you do it?

The goal of the project is to gather Real Stories of Real Babies and to connect our era of cloth diapering with internet support to an earlier era when women told one another face-to-face how to diaper their babies.

1. In the interviewing process, we will connect with another generation of cloth diaper users.
2. In the collection of all interviews, we will learn the specific details of what they used and how.
3. In the publicity to follow, we will discover the recent oral history of cloth diapering and bring attention to cloth diapers by publicity in your community.
4. In the oral history of cloth diapering, a fundraising book we intend to compile from the project, we will fund the basic demographic studies on diaper use and environmental studies on diaper impact that are much needed in the U.S.

Your Role

You and other RDA members will interview your grandmothers, neighbors, great aunts, mothers, and anyone else who can tell you how they, their parents, and their grandparents diapered their babies.

Using the detailed Project Guidelines, you can plan and carry out an interview that will become part of a larger collection. A printed copy of the Project Guidelines is available to every Real Diaper Association member, and anyone may download a copy on the RDA web site at

For support and motivation, we suggest that you gather members of your Real Diaper Circle, friends, or family to help you with the project, but you are welcome to set out alone to find and interview those who know about cloth diapers.

Oh Yes You Can!

RDA has provided a carefully detailed guide to help you every step of the way as you prepare your plan, record an interview with your grandmother, and document your interview to make it useful to those who will listen to it in the future. Use the Getting Started guide online or follow the steps in the Project Guidelines book.

1. Read about the project
2. Make a plan to participate
3. Find local support
4. Arrange an interview
5. Gather your equipment
6. Interview your grandmother (or someone else)
7. Organize your interview materials and send them in
8. Seek publicity by telling everyone what you have done

In this first of four articles on the project, we encourage you to read about the project and make your own plan to participate. We have created a Project Plan form to help you keep track of what you will do. This is available as part of the Project Guidelines or by separate download on the RDA website in .pdf or MS Word .doc formats. Once you decide who to interview, you will probably want to do some research on the time period when she diapered her babies. You will also find a Research Log to help you track what you find. When your plan is ready, share it with the Project Manager so she can offer help and support. You will find more details on each of these steps in the Project Guidelines.

In our next article, we will cover preparation and interviewing. In the meantime, prepare to join in this great project and learn more about cloth diapering. Your grandmother should know.

Project Manager

Lori Taylor is the Founder as well as the current Chair of the Board of Directors of Real Diaper Association. Before she jumped into the cloth diaper industry in 2000 as a manufacturer and retailer, Lori earned a doctorate in American Studies. Lori also has graduate training in Folklore and Oral History. She worked for the Smithsonian Institutionís Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage as an archivist, and she has also worked on many oral history and folklife projects. Lori has determined from the beginning that Real Diaper Association would draw on the existing knowledge of cloth diapers to inform contemporary diapering. The Your Grandmother Should Know project is one of the major educational projects Lori has planned to create a solid foundation in RDAís first five years.

Read more about the project and download Project Guidelines from the RDA website.

For more information, contact Lori at

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