Women artists and Wikipedia

Writers’ ‘marathon’ to commemorate International Women’s Day

Jane Fortune
February 27, 2014

On Friday, March 7, the Advancing Women Artists Foundation (AWA) and Syracuse University, with the support of the U.S. Consulate General in Florence, will commemorate International Women’s Day with a special event: Women Artists and Wikipedia. This editing marathon will bring together scholars, writers, art historians and art lovers to generate Wikipedia entries spotlighting the achievements of women artists, both historical and contemporary.


It is vitally important to continue to increase the visibility and coverage of long-forgotten or under-recognized women artists online. Wikipedia, which serves 470 million users per month, is a wonderful vehicle for doing this. The Editing Marathon on March 7 (see box for details) will focus in particular on women artists whose art has languished in storage for centuries in Florence’s museums. Though many were famous and well respected in their day, these invisible women now struggle to be noticed, let alone to be remembered.


Women Artists and Wikipedia is a spin-off of the Art+Feminism Edit-a-thon held on February 1 at the Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in New York City. Ten days prior to that event, the AWA received an invitation to participate as one of 31 satellite locations worldwide, during which at least 101 new articles were generated and 90 preexisting articles were improved.


AWA and its volunteers are proud to have added a dozen new women artists’ articles to Wikipedia that day, including entries for Renaissance nun-artist Suor Plautilla Nelli, Medici court artist Giovanna Fratellini, eighteenth-century copy artist Irene Parenti Duclos and twentieth-century Nabis painter Elisabeth Chaplin. Other artists who ‘went digital’ include Antonietta Brandeis, Giovanna Garzoni, Ida Botti Scifoni, Clara Peeters, Louisa Grace Bartolini, Mary Rogers Williams and Arcangela Paladini. The Florence satellite event was a truly international experience that brought together women from Italy, England, the United States, Canada and Australia. This multifaceted group of volunteers included tour guides, journalists, artists, authors, art historians, art restorers and art lovers. The enthusiasm was so great it became essential to organize another editing opportunity.


‘The event went viral in a way we never expected,’ says Siân Evans, Eyebeam event creator and organizer. ‘It was basically a conversation between a few like-minded friends and colleagues that snowballed into an international event. The response has been overwhelmingly heartening: to see librarians, artists, curators, writers, thinkers, and feminists all come together for this cause across the world was beyond our wildest dreams.’


‘Events like these are designed to help people get acquainted with Wikipedia editing so that they continue to add articles on female and feminist artists long after the day of an organized Edit-a-Thon. The gender and multicultural gaps on Wikipedia cannot be overcome in a day, but must be fought with a paradigm shift among current and new editors—focusing on the political aspects of which topics they choose to edit and their enormous potential in increasing the research-ability of women artists by adding them to Wikipedia,’ explains Wikipedian Dorothy Howard, from the Metropolitan New York Library Council of Wikimedia NYC.


Everyone is invited to Syracuse University in Florence to celebrate a day that commemorates acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played extraordinary roles in the culture life and history of their countries. The edit-a-thon will help spread and perpetuate recognition for women’s achievements—even if it is the oeuvre of one single artist at a time.  



Women Artists and Wikipedia Editing Marathon

Friday, March 7, 2 to 5pm

Syracuse University in FlorencePiazza Savonarola 15


Entries or edits spotlighting each artist’s life and works can be crafted on site at the Women Artists and Wikipedia event or sent to linda@advancingwomenartists.org by March 7. By writing to the same address, volunteers can sign up to ‘adopt an artist’ or receive additional information including a list of suggested artists. Entries can be written in English or Italian. No prior Wikipedia experience needed. Attendees should bring their own laptops, tablets and power cords. Admission is free.



March 8: A day to honor women


In 1945, the Union of Italian Women declared March 8 a day for celebrating women in Italy. It was then that Teresa Mattei, the union’s national director, proposed that the yellow mimosa flower be adopted as Italy’s symbol of International Women’s Day. Today, Italians commemorate the holiday by giving a sprig of mimosa to women as a sign of respect and as an expression of solidarity for oppressed women worldwide. 


International Women’s Day (originally International Working Women’s Day) actually began as a socialist holiday. In 1917, women textile workers in St. Petersburg led a strike against the orders of their unions and left-wing parties, calling for ‘bread and peace.’ They demanded an end to World War II and solutions to food shortages in Russia. The strike, which swelled to 200,000 workers and 66,000 men from the army garrison, led Czar Nicholas II to abdicate and granted women the right to vote. The Russian strike came 60 years after the first United States Working Women’s Day event, where female garment workers organized a protest in the streets of New York City, which sparked the formation, two years later, of a women’s union in the United States. These two events engendered a new global platform for women. Today, the international women’s movement works to empower women, to be equal partners to men.

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