Interview with Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight – Women in Red

WikiGap at Wikimania 2019, Reception at the MoFA – Author Armineaghayan
How started this big love between Rosie and Wikipedia?
In June 2007, I was visiting my son Sean in San Francisco. While there, I was on my computer, and I googled a book publisher whose books I collect (I’m a bibliophile): Book League of America. But I couldn’t find a Wikipedia article about it. I thought I made a spelling mistake or maybe my capitalization of the name had errors, because, I thought, „Wikipedia has an article about everything!“. After a few minutes, I realized there was no problem with my spelling or capitalization of the name… there just wasn’t an article about it. At that point, I remembered that Sean had edited Wikipedia when he was in the Peace Corps, living in Ukraine, and it made me think, „Well, if Sean can figure out how to edit Wikipedia, I bet I can, too.“ So I created the article for Book League of America (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_League_of_America) and was immediately ‘hooked’. In the next 3 months, I created several additional articles being careful to structure them and my references by looking at other similar articles… that’s how I learned. In September 2017, I created the article on Kallawaya people (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kallawaya) and a few days later, I received a note on my talkpage informing me that it had appeared on the mainpage of Wikipedia in the „Did You Know“ section. I was astonished that anything I had written was even read by people, let alone that it was good enough, important enough, to appear on the mainpage of Wikipedia. This realization -that people from around the world would be reading what I write- gave me a sense of responsibility and started my „big love“.
Please, tell us more about Women in Red – your great project.
Between 2007 and 2014, I created thousands of articles about all sorts of topics. I wrote a considered amount of anthroponymy articles (the study of names); then articles about geographic places of Nunavut, Canada; and then towns in Asturias, Spain. In 2012-14, to celebrate Women’s History Month during the month of March, many editors, including me, stopped writing articles about other topics and only focused on women’s biographies. We could tell that there were fewer biographies about women than men when we looked at category pages, but there were no statistics at the time regarding percentages. In December 2014, I saw for the first time an academic article regarding women’s biographies on Wikipedia, and it said that approximately 15% of the biographies were about women. In February 2015, Roger Bamkin (user:Victuallers) left a message on my talkpage saying he wanted to write up a session proposal for Wikimania 2015 regarding the small percentage of women’s biographies, and he invited me to do this with him, which I gladly did. After our submission (https://wikimania2015.wikimedia.org/wiki/Submissions/How_to_improve_the_coverage_of_women_in_Wikipedia) was accepted, we had a few months to prepare. While creating the slidedeck (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2015_Wikimania_-_Content_Gender_Gap_-_how_to_improve_the_coverage_of_women_on_Wikipedia.pdf), I suggested that we not only talk about the issue (we referred to it as „content gender gap“), but that we also propose a way to deal with it by starting a new „WikiProject“ dedicated to creating women’s biographies every day, not just during the month of March. We thought people would be interested in helping with this work for a few days, maybe a week, and then they’d lose interest, but we were wrong (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Women_in_Red/Metrics). Since establishing Women in Red in July 2015, we are now a community of 24 different languages (not in Bulgarian Wikipedia yet… but maybe soon?). We have thousands of comments on our talkpage, which is a harassment-free zone. We have more than 400 lists of missing notable women (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Women_in_Red/Redlist_index); we call them „redlists“, e.g. lists of redlinks. We facilitate approximately five month-long online editathons per month (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Women_in_Red). We’ve uploaded thousands of photos of notable women to WikiCommons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Media_supported_by_WikiProject_Women_in_Red). We’ve made more than 20,000 tweets regarding the articles our members have created, and have more than 7,000 followers (https://twitter.com/WikiWomenInRed). We also have a presence on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
How people, reading this interview, can participate and be part of Women in Red?
There are several different ways!
What is the most inspiring thing for you related with Wikimedia?
Wikipedia is transforming. Not only can you affect other people’s lives with what you write, but your life can be changed, too. When I was a young woman, I wanted to be a cultural anthropologist, but my father, who was paying for my university education, said ‘no’ to my majoring in anthropology. He said it wasn’t ‘practical’. So I earned degrees in business, and have had a lovely career in business, but the cultural anthropologist side of me just had to sit and be dormant… that is, until I found I could edit Wikipedia, and write articles about topics which inspire me. In September 2013, an article I created on Goaribari Island (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goaribari_Island) appeared in the „Did You Know“ section of Wikipedia’s mainpage. It was significant to me as I was the third person (and first woman) to have 1,000 contributions appear at „Did You Know“. This is what I said about it:
Some of you know that I am a cultural anthropologist at heart. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Margaret Mead and study cultural anthropology at Barnard (my mom’s alma mater), like Margaret did. I wanted to travel to Papua New Guinea and do research on its people, like Margaret did. But my dad said ‘no’ to majoring in anthropology – he wanted something more practical for my university studies. So now, years later, I get to live the life of an armchair cultural anthropologist, writing articles about Goaribari Island and its cannibals. To all the girls out there with impractical dreams, this article is dedicated to you.
I was knighted by Serbia in 2018 partly because of my involvement with Wikipedia (e.g. Wikipedian of the Year 2016). So you see, Wikipedia does transform lives.
How Wikipedia makes our societies better and stronger?
The world has always been complicated, but we are more aware of this now because the internet connects us. Wikipedia gives us access to verifiable knowledge, not just in one language, but in more than 300 languages. Society thrives on knowledge. It is the building block to incremental improvements in people’s lives. This makes the Wikimedia movement in general (including Wikidata, WikiCommons, and so forth), and Wikipedia in particular, a fundamental part of a better society. Its strength lies in the fact that „anyone can edit Wikipedia“. While some might see that as an oxymoron, it is, indeed, quite the opposite. So what are you waiting for? Become a Wikipedian today and you will be contributing to a better, stronger society.

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