A Woman of the Century:
A Crowdsourcing Project of the
Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries
MaryKate McMaster, Ph.D., MLIS
A Woman of the Century (1893) is a biographical dictionary of 1470 successful women from the United States and several other countries. As the title page notes, it was edited by Frances E. Willard and Mary A. Livermore and was contributed to by “a corps of able contributors.”
This project will create an archive of information on these women, provide a crowdsourcing opportunity for the public, and teach people about research and digital tools. It will reveal connections between these fascinating women and present a fuller picture of their lives. The project will capitalize on additional research to reveal the silences in the book and the lives of these women after the book was published. Eventually, it will provide a rich opportunity for comparative analysis of women from a variety of angles, including occupations, generations, geographical locations, and the literary marketplace. In addition, the project will trace categories not frequently studied, such as age at first marriage and lived/visited abroad.
The project’s goals are:
- To create an archive for people interested in studying women from their local areas, from different occupations, from specific educational institutions, from organizations, and from many other areas of American history and culture. Through this site, people will learn about the United States, gain experience with primary source research and digital tools, and/or enjoy participating in a crowdsourcing project.
- To involve people interested in local history who will want to participate, who will know about resources in their own areas which could enrich the project, and/or who may want to add the homes of and stories about local women to local events, tours, museums, sites, and books.
- To engage audiences interested in women’s history and local history, as well as people interested in the social, cultural, and political worlds of the United States during the nineteenth century by creating a user-friendly Omeka site using the Seasons theme. The site will have item profiles for and collections, exhibitions, and pages about the women in A Woman of the Century, as well as famous men they were connected to and institutions they were involved with. The items, collections, exhibitions, and pages will be enhanced by freely available primary sources from Chronicling America, Haithi Trust, Internet Archive, Making of America Cornell and Michigan, Wright’s American Fiction, other primary sources, and secondary sources. There will be links to the primary sources, including biographical sources, and a bibliography.
- To interest and engage the audience, and to encourage critical and creative thinking, the project will pose questions which range from simple to complex. Some of these questions are:
- Who were these women?
- Where were they born and where did they spend their lives?
- What religions were they?
- Where did they go to school?
- What were their marital statuses?
- What was the typical age at first marriage?
- Were they mothers?
- What occupations did they participate in? What did they create and produce during their careers (art, music, books, plays, inventions, businesses, etc.)?
- Did they continue to participate in their chosen occupations after marriage and/or childbirth?
- How often were they mentioned in periodicals? What did the periodicals say, and how do they compare and contrast to the presentation of the women in A Woman of the Century?
- What types of books did they write? Who published these books? What did the books look like?
- What periodicals reviewed their books? Who were the audiences for those periodicals, and how did the reviews differ?
- What periodicals did they contribute to? What were the audiences for those periodicals? How many periodicals did the typical author contribute to?
- How often were the women mentioned in periodicals? What did the periodicals have to say about them?
- What were advertisements for products by these women like?
- What organizations and activities did they participate in?
- What leisure activities did they enjoy?
- Did they live or travel abroad?
- What were their social networks like?
- Why were they included in A Woman of the Century?
- What is A Woman of the Century not telling about the lives of these women?
- What trends can we discover as more and more women are included in the project?
- To create rich metadata which will help to answer these and other questions the audiences will have. Each item profile will include the image (if available) and biographical sketch of the woman from A Woman of the Century and person item metadata including:
- LC Authority
- WorldCat Identity
- Birth state or country
- Marital status
- Age at first marriage
- Occupation(s) in text
- Occupation categories
- Places of employment
- Visited and/or lived abroad
- Book(s) Published
- Periodical article(s) Published
- Theatrical Performances
- Bibliography (Links to available primary and secondary sources and lists of print sources)
- To utilize digital technologies to create user-friendly interfaces and item records. Some of the digital technologies for the project are:
- • Simple Vocab plugin to ensure consistent metadata in several fields
• Search by Metadata plugin to facilitate connections between items
• LC Suggest plugin for authority and subject headings
• Geolocation plugin to create a Map for these women and places they were involved with at different times
• Item Relations plugin and Palladio to reveal social networks not easily understood in the book
• Timeline of women in the nineteenth century with activities day by day, year by year. (Neatline or other type of timeline)
• Contribution and Commenting plugins for crowdsourcing. Participants will be able to take a woman already in a list and create and/or enhance her record, to add someone new from the book to the site, to add tags to items, to add item relations, to contribute to maps and timelines, and to create their own exhibitions.
- Simple Pages to interact with the audience. These Simple pages will include “Women of the Week” (women who were born that week), Information for Contributors, and Primary Sources
- Collections to group like items together to facilitate examination and research. Some of these collections are the A Woman of the Century text itself and the Voyant link related to it, the women in the book, locations, organizations, and periodicals,
- Exhibitions on a variety of topics, including birthplaces, generations, geographical locations, and occupations. To interest potential contributors and to assist current contributors, some of these exhibitions about the women will note whether a woman’s item is available, in progress, requires additional contributions, or is complete.
Initial recruitment will be done through email and Facebook. Marketing will be executed through personal networks and through social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
A Woman of the Century: A Crowdsourcing Project of the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries is a multi-year project which will be hosted on Reclaim Hosting. Eventually, it will find a home on a site to be determined.