NPR’s Mobile Storytelling Unit Makes a Stop in Boise

Idaho Statesman (Boise, ID), June 11, 2013


Marilyn Shuler, 73, told the story of her life Monday to a NPR recording team that travels the country, allowing people to create a lasting record of the events of their lives. The StoryCorps mobile recording unit, set up in an Airstream trailer, will sit outside of Boise City Hall until July 6 as part of the project’s cross-country tour.

Shuler, the former director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission, was chosen as the first of 120 Treasure Valley residents to record their stories this visit.

She grew up in Portland during the war and was diagnosed with polio, a viral disease that often cripples its victims, when she was 10 years old.

There was little understanding of the illness at the time, Shuler said.

“You became social isolates after you had it, because they thought you might be contagious for a long, long time after you had it, which wasn’t true,” she said.

After the family moved to Salt Lake City, Shuler found herself barred from public school because her disease had left her unable to climb stairs.

“[I was] not able to go to public school, because the schools had five stories, so I had to go to a private Catholic school,” she said. “The didn’t have the kind of laws where all children could be educated even if they are disabled.”

Shuler did not forget how it felt to be marginalized. After marrying and moving to Boise, she became involved with volunteering, even helping to run a kindergarten for low-income children.

Her drive to help others eventually led Shuler to a 20-year job with the Idaho Human Rights Commission.

City Council member Lauren McLean said the project is a way for Boiseans to look back at the past as the city reaches its 150th year.

“Ultimately, it is our stories of the last 150 years, and particularly the big changes in the last 30 that will help guide us through our next 150 years,” she said.

The diversity of stories reflects the diversity of residents, she said.


Subjects Covered: diversity, education, personal storytelling

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