Wikipedia, according to its tagline, is “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” – and yet according to the most recent survey only around 14% of the people who actually do edit the English language version are women, and the percentage of its biography pages which are about women is only slightly higher, at c.18%. Increasingly, projects are trying to address this gender imbalance by getting more women involving in editing and by creating and improving more pages about notable women: “Women in Red“, for instance, aims to turn “redlinked” references to women – for pages that don’t yet exist – into existing “bluelinked” ones. To improve the representation of women classicists in particular, the UK Women’s Classical Committee has been running a project called WCCWiki. I thought getting involved would be an interesting way of learning about women in Classics I might not know much about (as well as being a productive way of procrastinating from other writing…), so yesterday I went along to one of their training sessions to find out more about the project.
After a welcome from the session’s local organiser at UCL, Katie Shields, and an introduction from Dr Emma Bridges about the WCCWiki project in general, we had a training session from Kelly Foster and Claire Millington on how to go about editing Wikipedia – not just the technical details of getting an account set up, the mechanics of editing, etc, but also issues like what kinds of sources to use, what sort of style to write in, how to decide who is ‘notable’ enough to have their own page, and so on (lots of info on all this on Wikipedia itself!). Then we all spent a couple of hours editing a page for a woman we’d picked from the project’s list of women classicists whose pages need work, or that don’t exist at all yet. I decided to work on Dilys Powell, who’s best known as a film critic, but who also had a lifelong love for Greece, wrote several books based on her frequent visits to the country, and was only the second woman to be appointed as President of the UK Classical Association – you can head over to her page to find out more! Thanks to all the help and advice from the session organisers (thank you all!), I feel like I definitely managed to improve her page – adding more information on her books and travel to Greece, putting in some more citations and links to Google Books previews of some of her works, and generally tidying the page up a bit – but there’s still plenty more that could be done if anyone feels like having a go…
Between all of us at the session we managed to create or edit more than ten pages – just to show you what a great range of subjects we covered between us, here are all the others:
Professor Eleanor Winsor Leach, whose work combined the study of Latin literature and Roman visual images
Professor Helen King, an expert on ancient medicine relating to women
Professor Emily Greenwood, author of a recent award-winning book on the reception of the Classics in Caribbean literature
Professor Susanna Braund, who has published widely on Latin poetry
Professor Jennifer Ingleheart, an expert on Latin poetry and sexuality
Professor Fiona McHardy, a prominent figure in intersectional work on gender and sexuality in the ancient world
Professor Myra L. Uhlfelder, an expert in classical and medieval Latin
Professor Emily Wilson, the first woman to publish an English translation of the Odyssey
Professor Julia Hillner, known for applying digital methods of social network analysis to the study of late antiquity
Professor Charlotte Roueche, an epigrapher working on late antique inscriptions and on the applications of digital humanities to epigraphy
Professor Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, a scholar of Latin and Greek literature who was also only the second woman to be President of the American Philological Association
But there’s plenty more work to be done, whether on adding more information to these women’s pages or creating new ones for the many women classicists who aren’t yet on Wikipedia at all!
All in all, I really enjoyed the day – it was great to meet some other classicists, start learning the new skill of editing Wikipedia, and find out a bit more about some fantastic women in Classics – and I’ll definitely be keeping up the editing whenever I have a bit of time! One other good thing about Wikipedia: you can spend as much or as little time as you like/have spare, and still feel like you’ve done something productive – even adding one missing citation or creating a basic page stub that other people can then add more information to is a useful contribution. Plus, you get to hit ‘publish’ and know that anyone can read what you’ve written straight away – quite different from most academic writing!
If you’re interested in seeing more about what the WCCWiki project is doing, and maybe getting involved yourself, check out the project page for more information, including dates of upcoming training and editing sessions. There’s a session once a month where members of the group will all do some editing at the same time, with a chat channel so you can ask for help if needed, and anyone is welcome to join – you don’t have to be a classicist, or a woman, or an experienced Wikipedia editor! You can also follow #WCCWiki on Twitter to see who’s involved and what pages they’re editing. I’d encourage anyone who thinks it sounds interesting to come along to one of the sessions (in real life or online via the chat channel) and give it a try!