The conference was really interesting, and quite political. Lots of talk of combatting fake news and a keynote from the ACLU. It was also quite a diverse conference, I thought, and the topic of diversity came up again and again. A lot of people thinking very hard about the sheer scale of getting ‘everyone’ involved in open knowledge.
I mused* on 2 things:
Someone presented some research indicating that women who contribute to Wikipedia do not only edit on ‘women’s topics’ or female biographies. That was not a shock as women, notoriously, are interested in all kinds of topics. But it does mean that getting more female editors does not automatically increase the coverage of our under represented bios.
There was some interesting findings with regard to images. It seems that the images available in Wikimedia Commons to represent people in roles and professions disproportionately portray men in those roles. Even when the profession in question is traditionally female dominated.
The connection between these two I think, must draw upon the same theory of ‘unconscious bias’ as our recruitment training does. Men and women both tend to think that men are more appropriate in professional roles, and more notable for biographies. Unconsciously, even when we pay attention, we may fall foul of our bias.
Much inspired by it all, I return to my main hobby of creating and improving women’s bios. This week I wrote about Prunella Briance, founder of the NCT and Sheila Kitzinger. I felt brave and added a picture of actual breastfeeding to Kitzinger’s page. I think she would have wanted that. Briance, Kitzinger and the NCT fought the good fight to allow women to breastfeed without fear, even in public.
I can’t claim any connection with Stella Cartwright, but I created a Wikipedia page for her. I learned about her last night at an event at The Scottish National Galleries: Beyond Artemisia: Women Artists Brought into the Light.
Last year at an event organised by Scottish National Galleries around their ‘Modern Scottish Women’ exhibition I created a page for Anne Finlay.
One of the things both these women have in common is that their biographies include a number of ‘affairs’ with the (more famous, and often married) men in their circle.
Anne has a considerable body of work. The challenge with Stella is to consider whether being a muse, but not an artist in ones own right, is a notable enough contribution to warrant a page. Stella is mentioned in a number of citable sources, but her role is as an inspiration for the work of others. She had an impact on their lives and work, but their pages perhaps do not mention her…..
I am sensitive to the arguments made by Hilary Mantel, that we should not retrospectively make the women in our stories strong and independent, but I do think some of them deserve to be named as notable*.
I have made links for Stella to University of Edinburgh Library archives, and to published articles and resources. I hope that her story will stand the scrutiny of my fellow Wikipedia editors. The page has already been reviewed, so that is good. But the category I created for ‘muse’ has been deleted.
* When I first started editing Wikipedia, when ‘AdaLovelace Day” was being invented, it is worth remembering that most of the discussion behind the scenes on Ada’s page was about the relative worth of her contribution to the work of the better known Babbage.