Tufts community members worked together at their first Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon to update entries of underrepresented women
A small group of students, staff, and faculty gathered in a second-floor classroom in Tisch Library on a Thursday afternoon in early March, thinking about the role of women in American history—and wanting to do something about it.
It turns out that fewer than one in five of the biographies on Wikipedia is about women, so the group set about to help fix this inequity, one notable woman at a time. The event, called a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, focused on editing Wikipedia profiles of diverse and underrepresented women whose entries were previously incomplete.
“I have always wholeheartedly believed in the power of storytelling, especially the power of amplifying the voices of people who have been dismissed or hidden or undervalued throughout history, and especially women’s voices,” said Ella Fasciano, A23, a film and media studies major.
After reviewing how to set up a Wikipedia account and how to correctly make edits to a page, edit-a-thon participants split up into three groups, each one selecting a woman whose Wikipedia entry needed updating with accurate and more complete information: composer Amy Beach, tap dancer and choreographer Ayodele Casel, and early civil rights activist Ellen Garrison Jackson Clark.
“From an informational perspective, it’s important to get the right information, and it’s our responsibility, if we change it, to do that,” said Ray Feinleib, A25, who is majoring in English. “I’m excited to contribute, even if it’s just a small edit. Knowing that someone will be better informed because of the change is a good feeling.”
“When people who were involved in historical movements are neglected, we’re shutting ourselves off to how important these individuals are to a movement,” said clinical psychology and film and media studies student Spencer Knotts, A24.
Knotts was working on the bio of Ellen Garrison Jackson Clark, who stood up for civil rights for Blacks in the immediate post-Civil War period. “We know Rosa Parks’ name, but a lot of us probably don’t know her name.” Helping build out her biography will help, he said.
Although some edit-a-thon participants were learning about the women whose profiles they were editing for the first time, others were more familiar with their subjects’ lives.
“I work in the Lilly Music Library cataloging works of lesser known and more diverse groups of artists for an exhibit,” said Jordan Good, AG24, who is working on a master’s degree in musicology. “Amy Beach is someone who we have a lot of scores from, and I have been working on cataloging her music. I thought this would be a great opportunity.” She’s also thinking now that continuing to edit Wikipedia entries might be a good project for her work in the library.
Fasciano noted that she had first heard about Ayodele Casel through the Half the History project, one of the sponsors of the edit-a-thon along with the Tufts Archival Research Center, Tisch Library, and the program in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
“The interviews Ayodele Casel has done and the documentary about her produced by Half the History in 2022 are so passionate and energetic,” she said. “But on her Wikipedia page, all of her information stopped in 2007, and she’s done so much since then.”
“Making sure that this woman who’s doing so many amazing things is highlighted is important,” Fasciano said. “Every person can now learn a little bit more about Ayodele Casel now because of the work we did today, and that’s very cool.”