via Cliotropic, who comments on the recent report that only about 15% of Wikipedia contributors are women. Cliotropic notes that ” Wikipedia’s user-demographics data is entirely voluntary and that many women, offered a chance not to identify themselves by sex, avoid doing so. Sometimes it’s an effort to avoid harassment, and sometimes it’s to avoid the women-targeted ads. So their data may well be off.”
Related to this gender gap in who writes for Wikipedia is the woefully inadequate coverage of women’s history in Wikipedia — not surprising since women’s history, after decades of research and teaching, is underrepresented in both higher education and K-12 history teaching. Cliotropic says, “if you teach history courses on women, gender, or sexuality, or on the history of any racial or ethnic minority in the United States, it’s worth considering adding a Wikipedia assignment to your syllabus.”
One of the commenters suggests using Jeremy Boggs’ “stub-expanding” course assignment for his U.S. survey course here -but there isn’t a stub section for women’s history!
It’s too late for me to assign this for my women’s history class this semester but I think I will take Cliotropic’s suggestions in the Fall.
Meanwhile, I think it’s a good idea for those of us who are professional women’s historians to think about investing our time in improving the representation of women’s history on Wikipedia. Shelby Knox’s comments to my post about her Radical Women’s history project reminded me that digital sources like Wikipedia and “this date in history” sites are the point of entry for many young women, and young people in general. Of course, we would like them to use more authoritative sources like Notable American Women and Notable Black American Women, but that still means schlepping to a bricks and mortar library (assuming there is one close by that’s open regular hours and actually owns the books). And, we academics are all familiar with Gerda Lerner’s 1975 essay in Feminist Studies that pointed out the limitations of “compensatory history” that simply looks at the “women worthies.” Still, if “great women” is where our students and feminist activists like Knox are starting, then we have to meet them there.
What do others think?