Women’s History and Wikipedia Part II: Wikiproject Women’s History

Ask and ye shall receive — Cliotropic has just set up a formal  Wikiproject: Women’s History.  This is also accessible by the shortcut WP:WMNHIST.

Cliotropic says that anyone can participate, but would “particularly love to see more professional scholars get involved. I know that there’s significant opposition to Wikipedia in some academic quarters, but I think that the information there isn’t going to get better unless people who actually know this stuff start pitching in. I’d really like WikiProject Women’s History to deploy a good quality scalethat helps our students evaluate whether the material in any given entry is trustworthy for their own research. And, as I’ve already said, I think that competent undergrads can be involved in this work very fruitfully as a learning project.”

Here’s more information on how to help:

  • Create a Wikipedia account. If you want to boost the contribution percentages credited to women, fill out your demographic information appropriately (even though it’s not required.)
  • Read a bit about how to contribute to Wikipedia. Start with their page onyour first article. For the social conventions of “talk pages,” which are where discussion about individual articles and projects happens, see the talk page guidelines.
  • Edit the WikiProject Women’s History proposal to add your username (in section 2, “Support”) and add any comments in section 3, “Discussion”.)
  • Go to the main page for the WikiProject and help expand our list of articles that should exist. If you’re an experienced Wikipedia editor, you might help reorganize the list if it’s getting unwieldy. If you’re unsure of what to do, ask on the talk page.
  • Once you’ve added anything, no matter how small, to the WikiProject page or to one of the articles mentioned, add your name to the WikiProject Women’s History Members page.
  • Wikipedia’s organized by a kind of benevolent anarchy. If you’re interested in taking a leadership role (formal definition of goals and scope; implementing a quality scale; starting a task force for entries on a particular national context, subfield, or time period) please go ahead. Write a note on the members page about what you’re interested in working on, and start doing it.

So, please help spread the word about this project to other women’s historians.  Like Historians of Science, we cannot allow a Wikipedia gap!

How Women’s Historians can help close the Wikipedia Gender Gap

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?

February History Carnival

Hello readers, old and new.  This is my first attempt at hosting a History Carnival.  I tried to think of some clever topics around which to organize these, but decided that the simplest way to do this is by region.  So, here are this month’s nominees:


Australian Postal History and Social Philately has a collection of materials from the Rev. James Fong Kem Yee, Chinese Presbyterian Church, Newcastle.

European History

Alsatia decribes the problems of decoding historical slang in the “The Milford Lane Bermudas.”

History and the Sock Merchant uses an account from a Titanic survivor to answer the question, “Did the sinking of the Titanic punture Edwardian social complacency?

Chaosbogey argues in “Homage to Catalonia” that “The Spanish Civil War is a bellwether for humanities geeks” who think studying  “a bunch of anarchists running around trying to change the world” is just as important as understanding the Holocaust.

Georgian London ‘s entry,  “When I Please” describes a day in the life of 18th century London prostitute Sarah Knight.

Tripbase looks at the lasting impact of various European explorers in  “8 Historic Explorers who change the world.

U.S. History

The Huntington Blog article, “A Perfect Fit,” describes six recently acquired pages of diary entries recounting events leading up to, and immediately following, the Battle of Lexington Green, written by the noted Boston preacher and patriot Samuel Cooper (1725–1783), a friend of Benjamin Franklin. These pages complement other portions of Cooper’s diary already in the Huntington collection.

Just in time for the first year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, Rethinking Schools offers tips on “Teaching a People’s History of the Abolition Movement.”

From Executed Today describes a melodrama from the early Republic in “1786; Elizabeth Wilson, Her Reprieve too Late.

The Virtual Dime Museum: Adventures in Old New York describes a boardinghouse keeper’s work as a fortune teller in  “Mother Shipton in New York.

Northwest History provides a commentary on the recent case of historical fraud involving a document by President Lincoln in “Historian Forges Past, Perhaps Permanently.”

The latest gossip from Boston 1775 ponders,  “General Washington’s welcome to his new headquarters?

Fellow #twitterstorian Katrina Gulliver’s provides an insightful and entertaining  “True account of a visit to Williamsburg, VA

Finally, we have a nomination for an entire blog of the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Richard Paris Clark, Jr. entitled A Vietnam War Clerk’s Diary.

Help educate Shelby Knox about Radical Women’s History and the Limits of the Hashtag

via The Ms. Education of Shelby Knox.  Those of you who teach WGSS courses are no doubt familiar with the 2005 film, “The Education of Shelby Knox,”  which highlights “the need for comprehensive sex education, gay rights, and youth activism.”  Knox now has a blog, and has an account on Twitter, where she does a series of “this day in women’s history” tweets, marked with the #wmnhist tag.  Every morning she combs “through pages and pages of HIStory to find the couple of morsels pertaining to women that wind up on my Twitter feed.”  Knox finds that after a year of searching that “the “women” in that phrase are most often white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, and Western. Just as women have been mostly left out of the broad discourse we call “history,” women of color, indigenous, queer, trans, disabled and non-Western women (and women living within all the intersection thereof) have been further marginalized, mostly left out of or tossed in as an afterthought in feminist attempts to add women to existing history.”  So, she’s decided to launch the Radical Women’s History Project. “What that means is that every day this year, starting on January 1st, 2011, I’m scouring the internet and books and any other source I can find to chronicle the lives and the accomplishments of the world’s women, explicitly centering women of color, indigenous, queer, trans, disabled, and non-Western women, and I’m posting them here for whomever would like to use them.”

This is an excellent endeavor, but before she reinvents the wheel, I encourage her to consult the wealth of resources produced by the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, women’s history bloggers (including those like me who blog about a variety of things, and the intersections between them), metasites like Discovering Women’s History Online, and of course that “so twentieth century” technology, the H-Women listserv where the vast majority of women’s historians still get information and connect on the Internet.  Then of course, there are numerous non-digital (aka “dead tree”) sources — books (including the textbook I use for my survey course), scholarly articles in women’s history journals, women’s history archives, etc.

So, help me help educate Ms. Knox — suggest some links and sources that I’ve missed and/or endorse the ones I’ve already mentioned.

AHA Report Part 3: Digital History

Today’s post concludes my reflections on the AHA 2011 meeting.  As a point of departure, I’ll start with Dan Cohen’s annual report/rant on the dearth of digital sessions at the meeting:

“Evidently we historians will just keep on doing what we’re doing how we’re doing it until it seems truly anachronistic. Just one of the main AHA panels, out of nearly three hundred, covers digital matters; perhaps another will touch on digital methods. By my count there are another six digital sessions overall, but these other sessions are put on by affiliate societies or were added by the program committee during lunches or other break times (that is, there were almost no digital panels proposed by historians attending the meeting). Incredibly, there are actually fewer digital sessions at the 2011 annual meeting than in prior years. Because clearly this digital thing is a flash in the pan.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Dan — we are way behind our colleagues in literature on this account.  Nevertheless, I did get something out of the sessions I attended.

First, I’ll mention one that Dan neglected to list — Documenting Social History: The Story of Three Archives.  (this turned out to be a story of two archives because the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum would not provide travel funds for Lara Godbille to attend the meeting!) To be fair, the term digital history wasn’t in the session title, but Wendy Chmielewski‘s paper was titled “Digitizing Women’s History.”   Poor Wendy — the Marriott forgot to provide a computer and projector for her presentation!  Also, there was no wireless in the hotel’s sessions rooms (just in the lobby and second floor) so no live tweeting for me.  Much of what I heard from her talk was familiar to me — she listed a variety of online sources for women’s history, including Archive Grid,  Discovering Women’s History Online, the Genesis project that is a megasite for collections on women’s history in the United Kingdom, and the section on women’s history in the Library of Congress’ American Memory collection.  The most surprising observation she made was that guide to women’s history collections compiled by Andrea Hinding in the late 1970s is still the most comprehensive source for archival and manuscript collections.  [I find this difficult to believe now that Worldcat includes archival material].

The talk by Ellen Shea from the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, although not specifically on digital sources, did mention their Blogs: Capturing Women’s Voices project.   The mission of this project is “to capture the voices of women whose points of view might not be found elsewhere, as well as to document the use of blogs and other forms of web publishing by American women in the early 21st century, the Schlesinger Library has selected and archived a sample of approximately 20 blogs. These blogs illuminate the lives of African-American and Latina women, lesbians, and women grappling with health and reproductive issues, and typically reflect their engagement with politics, their personal lives and philosophies, and their work lives.”

The library also has archived blogs by organizations whose collections are housed at the library, including the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective.

All of these blogs are searchable.  The library is also experimenting with data mining to make these collections more useful to scholars.

[while we’re on the subject of women’s blogs — I have to give a plug for the roundtable “Women Gone Wild,” starring Tenured Radical, Historiann, Jennifer Ho, May Friedman, Marilee Lindemann and Rachel Leow, in the Winter 2011 issue of the Journal of Women’s History.  It might have featured yours truly had I gotten my act together in time, but alas, was too busy working on other stuff to get a proposal submitted.]

As to sources that were not born digital, the enormous cost of digitization is still a barrier — Shea said that the Schlesinger doesn’t even have a budget line for these projects.  Both presenters concluded that the main result of digitization revolution will not be more archival material online: rather,  special collections and archives of the traditional kind (i.e. paper, books, and other stuff that needs to be examined in person) will be what makes libraries of the future distinctive.

The future of libraries was also the main issue addressed in the session on Critical issues in Bibliography and Libraries in the Digital Age. I’m really glad I attended this instead of the session on Google ngrams (which was not in the room indicated in the digital addendum to the conference program — did anyone out there ever find it?) because I got a lot out of it.  Matthew Shaw’s presentation centered around the “Growing Knowledge” exhibit at the British Library, which shows the way that the digital revolution is changing historical research, among other things.  His main point was that the traditional role of libraries — to organize and catalog information, establish relationships among sources, etc. — are at the center of the so-called digital revolution.  He used the metaphor of a library as “an airport for books or a convention center of the mind.”  Libraries will be responsible for preservation of digital materials, but more importantly, creating ways for researchers to find, filter, assess, and assemble relevant information from these sources.

Dominique Daniel and Steven Wise both addressed issues of digital literacy and the critical role that librarians/information specialists play in teaching “Generation Y” how to use both digital and analog sources properly (amen to that!)   The key point I got from both presentations: historians recognize a need for information literacy but are doing little to address it.  Librarians, on the other hand, are doing all sorts of great things with media literacy but are not necessarily addressing the issues particular to the discipline of history (unless, like Wise, they are both librarians and history instructors).  There needs to be more collaboration between historians and librarians around issues of media literacy — this goes beyond just showing students how to use databases and other e-resources and tools.

I’m not really sure what the answer is to getting more historians involved in digital history.  Speaking only for myself, the main reason I got into it was so I could introduce graduate students in public history to various tools and methods that are revolutionizing their field.  I do some stuff on information literacy in the historical methods class.  Oh yeah, and the self-promotion on this blog and on Twitter has brought me in contact with scholars I might not have met otherwise.  Yet, I’m far from a master of this subject and find it difficult to find time to keep up with everything that’s happening.  I would guess that I’m not alone here.  Thoughts?

Introducing the Knitting Clio Daily!

For those of you who are eager to read the thoughts of yours truly on a daily basis, I’ve created the Knitting Clio daily,  using a new digital toy I just discovered.   Now you don’t need to wait for me to think up something to blog about, nor do you need to follow me on Twitter. Yes, I’m truly that big a geek on the cutting edge of digital technology.  Enjoy!

Book is done, off to AHA

Well, the book manuscript is finally done, printed (despite a broken department printer — found one in another department) and sent off to the publisher.  Now I’m gearing up for the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Boston, which starts tomorrow.  I don’t often attend this meeting  — it’s an inconvenient time of year, I prefer smaller conferences, etc.  — but the chance to meet other digital history folks (aka twitterstorians) had me enthusiastic.  One of them is even more enthusiastic — see this post at the blog Notes from the Field — and I’m looking forward to meeting her and others in person.

I’m also one of the few executive board members of the Disability History Association who can attend the meeting.  So, I’ll be there representing.  If you’re interested in this area, please do come to the Task Force on Disability and  open forum and tribute to the late, great Paul Longmore on Friday afternoon.

As always, I’ll will be knitting during sessions (and in between). Please don’t take offense — it’s better than texting!

If you can’t make the meeting, you can follow some of it on Twitter using #AHA2011.

P.S.  Tenured Radical has a guide to recommended sessions here.  Also see her ongoing series on job interviews.

New Venture for 2011: Knitting Clio to Host a History Carnival

Happy New Year readers!

Over the holidays, I continued to read and post to Twitter (see my stream at right) and discovered that  History Carnival was looking for someone to host an upcoming carnival.  So, I’ll be hosting the History Carnival for February.  Please go to their website to submit nominations.

What is a blog carnival you ask?   Well, it’s not this kind of carnival, and it’s just a coincidence I’m hosting in February (although maybe I’ll work in something about Mardi Gras).  According to if:book, a blog carnival “is an interesting subculture of the web that has been adopted in certain academic, or quasi-academic, circles. A blog carnival is like a roving journal, a rotating showcase of interesting writing from around the blogosphere within a particular discipline. Individual bloggers volunteer to host a carnival on their personal blog, acting as chief editor for that edition. It falls to them to collect noteworthy items, and to sort through suggestions from the community, many of which are direct submissions from authors. On the appointed date (carnivals generally keep to a regular schedule) the carnival gets published and the community is treated to a richly annotated feast of new writing in the field.”

The original carnival was Carnival of the Vanities, started in 2002.  Medieval and early modern historians were a natural for this platform and started Carnivalesque a few years later in 2005, the same year that the History Carnival started.  For an example of a recent History Carnival, check out the January History Carnival at Writing Women’s History.  There’s even a clearinghouse for carnivals here.

That’s So Twentieth Century: Women’s History and Web 2.0

In my last post, I reproduced an announcement from the women’s studies journal  Frontiers about a new “interactive” column by Eileen Boris, in which she will cook up a “gumbo” of emailed responses, “mixing, seasoning, and throwing in her own ingredients, as she enables us to engage in feminist dialectic.”

As Pennamite observed in the comments section, “Isn’t that gumbo going to be a bit old, if the deadline for submissions is over a year away…? Seems like an awkward way to shoehorn social media into a paper journal format.”

Right on, Pennamite!  So this post is a response to Penny’s observation and a contribution to a new venture that Dan Cohen and  Tom Scheinfeldt started cooking up at ThatCamp this past weekend. They propose writing an edited book entitled Hacking the Academy:

“Let’s write it together, starting at THATCamp this weekend. And let’s do it in one week.

Here’s my question — can we do better than use a twentieth-century technology (email) to create an interactive feminist discussion?  To steal Pennamite’s motto — you betcha!

In fact, I would argue that the call from Frontiers is barely twentieth century (even if the announcement was posted on Facebook)– one could easily imagine this being done with old fashioned snail mail.  It’s not even as  technologically sophisticated as H-Women, which, while moderated, at least allows for give and take between subscribers.

Speaking of which, I have a great fondness for the good old days of H-Women, i.e. the 1990s, when I served as an editor.   Some of the original H-Net folks and I discussed how to make H-Net Web 2.0  at an H-Net reception at the AHA a few years ago — how to bring H-Net into the Web 2.0 era.  One can now “subscribe” to the discussion lists through RSS feeds instead of by email.   However, there’s not a lot of activity in terms of scholarly exchange — most of the content consists of CFP, queries, and announcements of various kinds.

Other experiments –organizers of the last  Berkshire Conference of Women’s Historians, more specifically Historiann,  put together a blog right before the most recent Big Berks meeting (this was   So, you can find a number of women’s historians who blog.  In October 2008, I was on a panel for the little Berks meeting with Tenured Radical and Clio Bluestocking. The Journal of Women’s History commissioned TR to coordinate a roundtable on the relationship between feminist history blogging and the professional world of feminist history. However, this roundtable will appear in a subscription-only traditional publication (although available electronically as well as in print).  Where’s the 2.0?  Will there be opportunities for readers to respond in an online forum?

Maybe I shouldn’t be such a smart-ass — after all, I’m a relative newcomer to digital history, and was lucky enough to get money from my university to build up my skills in this area.  Many people aren’t so fortunate. How do we get more women’s historians and feminist scholars on the Web 2.0 bandwagon?  Is this a worthwhile endeavor?  I await your answers.

Knitting Clio has been busy blogging elsewhere

This blog has been quiet lately since I maintain two other blogs.  One is the course blog for my graduate digital history seminar. The other is Women Historians of Medicine, where we are having a lively discussion about suggestions for an exhibit honoring the 50th anniversary of the Pill that Suzanne Junod at the FDA History Office is putting together.

Since I’m an expert on the history of college health, no discussion of the history of the Pill would be complete without mentioning that female students’ access to the Pill was recently weakened by changes in Medicaid pricing rules. Prior to 2005, pharmaceutical companies were able to provide Title X clinics and college health centers with birth control pills at a substantial discount.  In 2005, these rules changed, and in 2007 the price of birth control pills for women who came to these clinics skyrocketed, going from $10 to as much as $50 per package. The Feminist Majority Foundation Campus Program worked hard to change this, and in 2009 Congress reversed this and once again made low-cost birth control clinics available to student health centers and clinics for low-income women.  Yet some student health centers still don’t offer discounted pills.  So, to ensure access, please do the following:

  1. Go to your Student Health Center and make sure birth control and emergency contraception is offered and its given a discounted price.
  2. If you can’t access birth control on campus, start a petition, write op-eds in your student newspaper, present resolutions to student government and administration.
  3. Encourage the Health Center to be on your side.
  4. Plug into FMF’s Birth Control Access Campaign action kit to disseminate information on campus.