Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon Highlights Female Writers

“No, the short answer is no,” said Flavia Vidal, Instructor in English and Co-Director of the Brace Center for Gender Studies, when asked whether she felt women writers are given enough credit for their accomplishments at the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon. Paige Roberts, Director of Archives and Special Collections, agreed, and hoped to further the highlighting of women’s accomplishments at the event.

The Brace Center worked closely with Roberts to organize a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon focused on creating and adding to Wikipedia entries on Abbot Academy (AA) writer alumni, highlighting the accomplishments of these female writers. The event will be one of a series of collaborations between the Archives and the Brace Center.

Many AA alumnae authors were featured, including Anna Laurens Dawes AA ’71 and Edith Kathleen Jones AA ’1889, whose articles will go live on Wikipedia this week.

“My feeling is that women writers probably are not highlighted enough in the history of literature. So one purpose of the event is to kind of further that, but I think we are making progress. Every little bit helps, the tie to school history is kind of cool too,” said Roberts.

During the three-hour session, students created Wikipedia pages for alumni with the help of Techmaster Tony Tan ’17, using resources like the book “A Singular School,” written by Susan Lloyd an Abbot history instructor in the 1960s.

Techmasters, AA alumnae, and students all participated in this event, held this past Sunday in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL), quickly filling up the McLean Gallery before it had even begun.

Vidal, whose personal favorite AA writer alum is Julia Alvarez AA ’67, hopes that the event connects students with the stories of alumni past and present.

“There are a variety of different goals [of the event], one of which is of course to increase visibility of Abbot writers through the very public medium of Wikipedia and to help the world know about the legacy of these writers. To connect alums and students so that they have an opportunity through this meaningful interaction to hear each other’s stories,” said Vidal.

Students who attended the event also shared similar visions of the event’s impact. Nell Fitts ’18 believes inequalities within the gender binary contribute to the writer alumni’s lack of representation on Wikipedia.

Fitts said “The Edit-a-thon is important because [it allows] for a great visibility of important historical figures, they don’t get as much recognition as they deserve, especially Abbot women… They haven’t had Wikipedia pages before now because we generally don’t care about the successes of women, [and] as a society they have been underrepresented. That’s just our past, and we are trying to amend that.”

Jason Reynolds ’18 edited an article on writer and newspaper columnist Anna Laurens Dawes.

“[The Edit-a-thon] reveals how women are just as important in the world of literature as men… The women didn’t have Wikipedia pages before now because they were not respected writers of their time,” said Reynolds.

Tan, a Wikipedia advocate who has edited more than 3,700 articles, thinks that the writers’ absence on Wikipedia is a result of a majority male editorial group which does not know about the authors or have enough sources to create articles about them.

“No one’s paid and everyone is doing their best. The goal of this project is to accumulate to something large so everyone is working together to get closer to that goal,” said Tan.

Roberts agrees that Wikipedia is an important source of information for students and our society at large, which is why AA alumni representation on the site is so important.

“I would love to have students to get to… have a little familiarity and comfort with Wikipedia as a creator through creating something with Wikipedia partly because in the real world after graduation this is the sort of thing that people do. You don’t actually always write research papers. It’s a great extra skill to have,” said Roberts.

“It’s important for us to add quality information to Wikipedia partly because it’s the primary thing that comes up when someone is searching Google. If we can get Andover and [AA] information in there, that’s great,” she continued.