Claire Potter: Prikipedia? Or, Looking for the Women on Wikipedia

tags: Claire Potter, Chronicle of Higher Ed. Tenured Radical, Wikipedia



Claire Potter blogs at Tenured Radical.

To celebrate women’s history month, I have decided to tweet an historical fact about a woman, or women, every day in March. Silly? Perhaps. Fun? Why yes: I’m enjoying it enormously. Women’s history rocks.

So far, women as different as abolitionist Harriet Tubman, the Empress Josephine Bonaparte, and Svetlana Alliluyeva have appeared in the Twitter feed to the right of this post. I find these women by simply entering the date in Wikipedia’s search box: a list of events, births and deaths show up in an entry devoted to that day. Presto!

Well, not so fast.

You might be surprised to learn how very few items in these lists name women as historically significant figures.  Sometimes there are three or four women named; sometimes it is only one.  One day there were absolutely no women listed and I had to get creative: I picked a major civil rights event and did some newspaper research to discover a woman who was at the scene. I figured that out of 600 people marching to Selma, one had to be a woman, even though all the leaders photographed were men. You wouldn’t think it would be difficult to name a woman who was at the scene during a historical riot, or at a moment in a revolution, but you would be wrong. Most accounts of major historical events that I have looked up in Wikipedia also include no women as actors....

It is no secret that Wikipedians are mostly male....



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