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Women and Wikipedia | W&M Hosts an Edit-a-thon

For many college students, Wikipedia is the go-to source when we want to learn about something new. Although often dismissed by teachers and professors, Wikipedia can be a useful resource for initial research. Of course, Wikipedia does not have all the answers. Not yet, anyway. But you can help fix that! William & Mary is hosting an Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon this Friday, March 6th,  in the Swem Research Room from noon to 5:00pm! I got in touch with Jessica Colbert, the student spearheading this event to learn more about what an edit-a-thon entails.


Apparently edit-a-thons are quite common and can focus on a variety of topics. According to Jessica, the Art+Feminism Edit-a-Thon is a worldwide movement with two main goals: upgrading and creating Wikipedia articles about women in the arts and increasing the number of woman-identified Wikipedia contributors. Jessica also hopes that by hosting such an event at the College, she can “help students and community members understand how Wikipedia works.” Participating in an edit-a-thon can also help students build valuable research skills that they can put to use both inside and outside of the classroom.


The overall movement was inspired by a survey conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation which found that less than 13% of Wikipedia contributors are women. As a result of this gender imbalance of contributors, there are also far fewer Wikipedia pages about women. The Art+Feminism Edit-a-Thon hopes to help bridge this gap in the specific area of women in the arts.

Jessica was inspired to help host the event at William & Mary by her love of both libraries and feminism. After expressing an interest in edit-a-thons, Jessica was approached by the Arts Librarian at William & Mary, Kathleen DeLaurenti about the Art+Feminism event. Some of the groundwork for this event has already been laid by the students of a class last Spring taught by Professor Chris DeLaurenti, who created articles about women in electronic music for one of their assignments. When I asked Jessica who, specifically, she was hoping to work on articles for, she had quite a few in mind: “Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marlene Dietrich, Melora Creager, Pamela Z, Diamanda Galas, Poly Styrene, Janelle Monae, Umm Kulthum, Wendy Carlos, Patti Smith, Joan Jett…the list goes on!” Jessica is also hoping to add some articles on members of the William & Mary staff who have done some amazing work in the arts, especially Professor Anne Rasmussen in the Music department.

While editing a Wikipedia article sounds kind of intimidating, Jessica says that anyone with a computer with an internet connection can do it! Having a user account and a basic understanding of Wikipedia markup also help, but aren’t absolutely necessary. And of course, if you are adding content, you must be able to cite a reliable source. Jessica has already spent some time handpicking useful sources from Swem. For those interested in participating in the Edit-a-Thon, an Intro to Wikipedia Training Session is being held on Wednesday, March 4th from 7-8pm in the Swem Research Room. Information on creating user accounts and basic markup will also be given at the actual event. Jessica also wanted to note that although the event focuses on increasing the number of woman-identified contributors, people of all gender identities and expressions are welcome to attend!

Julia O'Connell is an English major and Linguistics minor at the College of William & Mary. Her love of reading has inspired her to pursue a career in the field of editing and publishing. Aside from reading, her hobbies include ballroom dancing, crafting, and baking with friends.
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