Oops50 had the pleasure this week of interviewing two of the owners of SheVille of Western North Carolina: Jean Cassidy and Va Boyle. SheVille is a wonderful, thoughtful and thought-provoking site that Jean and Va own with Lee Lehman, where they pull together “local, regional, national, and international” information that is “about women’s lives and education, sustainability and the environment, the arts and writing, community people and events.” Although the site is tailored to “women of Western North Carolina,” and offers affordable advertising for any small business owner, there is something there of interest to all women (and many men), of all ages and locations.
Here’s Part I of the interview:
Oops50: Why did you all decide to build Sheville into the kind of site it is today, with all of its interesting articles and topics?
Jean: Well, it’s never been a money thing. I used to feel really lonely when I looked at women’s magazines, dealing with stuff like breast implants and liposuction—which have never been my reason for being. I knew that women have marvelous intelligences, so I thought, ‘how can we not focus on this together?’ I wanted a place where we could join articles on sustainability with ones on women’s education, women’s businesses—things that make life deeper, much richer, things that are ‘life’s blood’ for women.
Oops50: So sustainability is a big part of your focus?
Va: Yes! And I have always been interested in conservation. I grew up, after all, in a household with a Victory Garden!
Jean: And conserving is something that comes naturally to women. I grew up in a household of Irish immigrants, where my mother figured out how to feed 4 kids on very little. I remember our hot dog casserole, where you felt lucky if you found the piece of hot dog!
Va: My aunt, at 83 years old, was still mowing an acre with a push mower, all by herself.
Oops50: What do you see as the main role of Sheville?
Va: Giving information is our primary goal, but we also want it to be a place for sharing and networking.
Jean: We see it as a conduit for bringing all sorts of good stuff together—that’s why we have so many RSS feeds, political news, and women’s news. I find it totally exciting, every day, just to see what is happening in the world of women. It’s not a site that has anything against men. I figure, the more equal we all are, the better.
Va: The site is here to support women, not to bash men. You know that book, The Woman’s Room?—It made me so angry. It was all about a woman who is oppressed by her husband because she felt she had to cook, clean, and do everything for him—but all she could do was gripe about it. We want to give information so women can do whatever they decide they want to do.
Oops50: So, how did you two come to own Sheville to begin with?
Va: Leigh Wilkerson had started the site, but she got to the point where she didn’t have the time or the energy to keep it up.
Jean: I was a clinical social worker, and I was getting ready to retire, so when I heard about the site, my ears perked up.
Va: And I joined in because of my own interest in the site.
Oops50: And have you both been deeply involved in it from the beginning?
Va: Well, yes, but we also had a great crew of youngsters to help us get off the ground.
Jean: And we had some great outside advisers to help us at SBTDC. At that point, nobody really knew exactly what we were talking about—nor did we. We had to figure it out as we went along.