Discovering Lost Stories
SpeakYourStory Seeks to Rewrite History
Writer / Joshua Deisler
A woman sat listening as the professor handed out a class assignment. From her desk, she leaned toward a blind man, reading the work to him. As the semesters continued and seminary graduation neared, the woman followed the man to all his classes, reading to him every book, every paper and every task. The man was Joe Morris, and the woman was his wife, Helen.
Katie Morris, co-founder of the website SpeakYourStory, recalls the narrative of her grandmother and how she faithfully guided her husband through seminary. The lost tales of women like Helen Morris are just what SpeakYourStory aims to uncover.
SpeakYourStory (speakyourstory.org) is a website featuring essays, memoirs, art, inspirational quotes, journals and more; the organization strongly believes that every woman has a story to tell.
“Anything that happens can turn into a story,” says Katie. Women from all across the country submit stories via the website, email and social media; the stories typically remain unedited when published and are free from ads, comment options or ‘Like’ buttons.
“We’re trying to keep it a very safe space,” says co-founder Teal Cracraft. “It’s not a place that’s open for debate.” When she and Katie first began the website, they wanted to counter the often hostile world of blogging and provide a venue for women to share stories free from judgment.
SpeakYourStory finds its beginnings long before friends Katie and Teal ever met. Katie had always wanted to be a lawyer, and she eventually worked her way through law school. But six years ago, Katie found herself moving away from criminal justice. “It’s such a pain-filled world,” says Katie who soon started looking for another way to advocate: a website dedicated to sharing “unfiltered stories of all women.”
For Teal, her story began with the pain of her parent’s divorce. She thought about how she wanted to create her own existence—her own story. In fact, Teal composed a senior thesis on the negative depiction of women in “The Canterbury Tales.”
The thought of women’s roles in literature occurred to Teal again as she and Katie began noticing the lack of representation of women in many TV shows and movies. With that, they began planning SpeakYourStory. After sending out an email to friends and family requesting stories, Katie and Teal finally published their first edition of the website in March.
With each week comes a new collection of stories: stories of physical and mental illness, depression, abortions, addiction, divorce, rape, eating disorders, homelessness and domestic violence.
In its short history, SpeakYourStory has ventured far beyond simply a website. Recently, the organization hosted a storytelling event at the Speak Easy called “On Being Wrong.” Also, this month SpeakYourStory will return to the Indy Fringe Theatre on Friday, February 12, at 6 p.m. to curate a live event with Storytelling Arts of Indiana on the theme “Empowered Love.” Finally, Katie and Teal are planning a workshop with victims of domestic abuse. “It’s not only the narrative of where you’ve been but creating the narrative of where you will be,” says Teal.
Katie and Teal recently raised money for several ambitious projects. Recently they worked with an advisor to develop plans for a podcast featuring tales around a common theme. They also raised money to complete a book proposal. The SpeakYourStory book will anthologize memoirs, essays, art and poetry from all around the country, highlighting the theme, “The part of you that saved you.”
Indeed this theme remains dear to Katie and Teal; both founders often share their stories—traumatic and triumphant—on the website. Katie’s story led her on a lone trip to Budapest. “I met a piece of myself there that I had never met before,” says Katie who also lived in Egypt for a time as she studied abroad.
Katie and Teal hope to make rewriting history their full-time jobs. For them, making connections and giving women confidence would make the ultimate career. “By giving these voices a platform, we are literally rewriting history,” says Teal.
These stories of women—their challenges, experiences, accomplishments, heartaches and triumphs—are just how SpeakYourStory rewrites history with each publication. As SpeakYourStory continues growing, Katie and Teal continue discovering these lost stories of women. For Teal, she recalls the tale of her great grandmother’s national bowling competitions.
And for Katie, she remembers the story of her gammy reading to her husband Joe as he worked his way through seminary. It’s these unsung heroes, these forgotten narratives that make SpeakYourStory such a welcoming place for inspiration and for healing. This is how SpeakYourStory is not only rewriting the past but also changing the future.