Wikipedia:WikiProject Women in Red/Essays/Writing women into the encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sonia Davis editing Wikipedia for Black History Month in 2017.

Writing women into the encyclopedia of Wikipedia can start with the creation of a notable woman's biography. However, in order for the biography to be more easily found online, we also need to add her name and link to other relevant articles on Wikipedia. This essay will describe some methods of creating multiple discovery points for women's biographies as well as discuss strategies for writing women's contributions into relevant articles. These strategies should also be used when writing about other gender identities, transgender people and/or other marginalized groups of people. Women and people belonging to marginalized groups have been systematically excluded from many historical accounts of their areas of endeavor. This happens throughout the world and across different subject areas. However, recent scholarship has focused on uncovering women and marginalized groups in history. On Wikipedia, providing more ways to locate the biography increases visibility online for these groups of people and for your biography or article specifically.


Writing women back into their proper place in history can be hard (but rewarding!) work.

Women and transgender people have been actively and passively written out of mainstream history.[1][2] Mainstream news, like the New York Times has written more obituaries about white men than any other demographic.[3] In the sciences, women's contributions historically were often attributed not to the women who did the work, but to the men they worked with.[4][5] In the computer sciences, women in early pictures of computers were assumed to be models, when in fact, they were programmers.[6] Later, women computer programmers were actively pushed out of the field and then forgotten by history.[7] The men working on technology projects are celebrated and the women ignored.[8] Similarly, the effects of women in the lives of famous men are often ignored.[9] LGBT history has also been erased due to censorship efforts.[10] Examples of how women's notable contributions are ignored, forgotten or dismissed is found in nearly every topic. Women have been excluded from the histories of the arts,[11][12] astronomy,[13] civil rights,[14][15][16] computer programming,[17] cryptography,[18][19] film-making,[20] LGBT rights,[2] physics,[21] religion,[22] social work,[23] sports,[24][25] and in war,[26][27] just to name a few topics specifically.

Reflecting mainstream history, Wikipedia has also tended to lag behind in writing about women's contributions in their fields.[28] Women's significant contributions in various fields are either ignored, or barely mentioned in their biographies on Wikipedia.[28] Often, women's relationships to the men in their lives overshadowed the women's accomplishments when written about on Wikipedia.[29] The lack of information about women on Wikipedia leads to the false assumption that women did not participate in various areas of history.[30] In addition, women's pages are more likely to link to pages about men, though men's pages often don't link to relevant articles about women in their lives.[31]

As Wikipedia editors, we have a chance to write about notable women in history and to also include their contributions in articles about relevant topics to their fields of endeavor. Recently, more scholarship and history has focused on discovering the roles of women in various fields. Books such as Hidden Figures (2016), Unsung (1980 and 2001), and others help uncover women's and marginalized people's histories. The New York Times has started to create obituaries for "overlooked" individuals.[3] Using this information, we can help correct the history that neglects to mention the roles of women by adding women's contributions to their biographies and other articles on Wikipedia.

On Wikipedia[edit]

This section will describe ways to write women and marginalized people into the encyclopedia, starting from the easiest and fastest ways, to more in-depth methods.


Have you added your biography to EVERY possible significant category on Wikipedia? Many people search Wikipedia by browsing categories. Leaving some out can mean that people miss reading your biography. Important categories to add include:

  • Date of birth (DOB)
  • Date of death (DOD)
  • Profession
  • Nationality
  • Place of birth
  • Alma mater(s)
  • Professional associations
  • Significant awards
  • Religious and/or political affiliations (if significant)

You may want to use Wikipedia:HotCat to easily add, modify and remove categories on your articles.


Search for the surname of the woman you've written about. If she has several last names because of marriage or other name-changes, consider adding her under all the names she'd used.


Search for the year of your subject's birth and death. You can add them to the lists on these pages as appropriate.

Lists and timelines[edit]

Add the name of the woman to a relevant list or timeline. You can find lists under Category:Lists of women. Do not copy from an existing list online or from a print source! Lists may be subject to copyright protection, too.

If the woman you are writing about did something notable on a certain date, you may want to add her to a timeline. Find timelines under Category:Timelines by topic. You might also consider creating a list or timeline if you think there is a need for a new page. Timeline of women in Antarctica was created during an editathon on women working Antarctica.

Already mentioned[edit]

Sometimes the subject of your article has already been mentioned without being wikilinked in other articles. There are a couple of ways to find out about other Wikipedia articles that mention your subject. One way is to use the Find Link tool. Another way is to do a Google search. Put the subject of your article in quotes and specify the site to search (Wikipedia). It will look like this:

"Jane Doe"

The Find Link tool works a little bit better in that it will locate pages that are not currently Wikilinked, whereas the Google search will give you all pages that mention your subject, linked or not.

Family members[edit]

Does the subject of your biography have a notable family member or spouse? Make sure you add information about them on the relevant pages and in infoboxes.

Also look for non traditional relationships. For example, Mary Garrett Hay was a "close companion" of Carrie Chapman Catt. Each article should mention their relationship. There is also a long tradition of women working closely with other women. Add their friendships and working relationships with one another to each article.

Relevant affiliations[edit]

This can include organizations that the woman is involved with or people she may have mentored in her career. Many women who have mentored men and had a significant impact on their careers are not mentioned in the man's article.

Is the subject of your biography discussed on works that they created? If not, make sure to add relevant information about them or at least link them to their biography.

Relevant topics[edit]

Example of how to add significant contributions to an article relating to a subject's topic of work. Shows before and after edits in a visual manner. Screenshot taken November 2018.

When the woman you are writing about is heavily involved in a certain topic, such as astronomy, golf, etc., you may be able to add them to the larger article on the topic. This is especially relevant if she made significant contributions to the relevant topic. For example, Renee Powell is an African American golfer who made significant firsts. Another example is Katie Koestner, who helped make the concept of date rape an important topic of discussion in sexual assault on campus in the 1990s.[32][33] Because of her contributions, she can be added to the article on date rape in an appropriate section. You can see the differences here or in the screen capture. (This expansion took about 10 minutes to do.)

Another good example of writing women into their relevant topics is the subject of computing. Women in computing identifies several computer firsts and innovations that women developed in the fields of computing and programming. However, the relevant articles often did not mention the women who were involved in that topic. Editors went through and added women's contributions to Computer. However, other areas, such as Computer programming, Human computer and other related topics still need to be fleshed out with women's contributions. It's important to brainstorm other related topics in order to make sure women's contributions in their fields of endeavor aren't forgotten.

Sometimes you may find a need to build an entire article in order to encompass what women have done in certain fields. An article that was written for such a purpose is Women in brewing. This article highlights the history of brewing, which was once dominated by women, and also links to relevant biographies. It serves as a way to integrate many different women's efforts into their relevant place in history.

See also[edit]

If your topic is similar to or a "spin off" of another topic, you may also want to create a "See also" section.


DYK Screenshot (no women here: let's fix that!)

Submitting an article to DYK (Did You Know?) which appears on the front page of Wikipedia is a good way to promote your new biography. The new or newly expanded biography must be less than 7 days old. Submitting a DYK request can be done by following the instructions on the page and if you get stuck with the process, ask for help!

On sister projects[edit]


Adding women to Wikidata lists allows other sister Wiki projects to discover those women. Wikidata provides a structured database of information. A person doesn't need to have an article on Wikipedia to be added to Wikidata. If you have an image of the person, or another type of entry on a sister project, then it's valid to add it on Wikidata.[34]

Wikimedia Commons[edit]

One of the best ways to help promote visibility, almost literally, is to add images and relevant documents to Wikimedia Commons. Make sure your image has the correct copyright to upload to Commons. You can also reach out and request that creators of images donate some of their work to the commons.

Other languages[edit]

Are you fluent in another language? Think about translating your article to another language Wikipedia. All language Wikipedias have a problem with systemic bias,[35] and adding your article can help counter that.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hughes, Bettany (2012-04-10). "The wisdom of women written out of history". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  2. ^ a b King, Jamilah (25 June 2015). "Meet the Trans Women of Color Who Helped Put Stonewall on the Map". Mic. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  3. ^ a b Padnani, Amisha (8 March 2018). "Remarkable People We Overlooked in Our Obituaries". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  4. ^ Lee, Jane J. (2013-05-19). "6 Women Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism". National Geographic. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  5. ^ Iqbal, Jawad (2015-06-19). "The women whom science forgot". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  6. ^ Minoff, Annie; Goyette, Jared (30 March 2015). "Finding the forgotten women who programmed the world's first electronic computer". Public Radio International. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  7. ^ Brewer, Kirstie (2017-08-10). "How the tech industry wrote women out of history". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  8. ^ Bilton, Nick (9 October 2014). "Forgotten women who made the modern world possible". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  9. ^ Pataki, Allison (2014-02-11). "7 Forgotten But Extremely Influential Women From History". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  10. ^ Chauncey, George (26 June 1994). "A Gay World, Vibrant and Forgotten". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  11. ^ Akbar, Arifa (8 April 2011). "Women at war: The female British artists who were written out of". The Independent. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  12. ^ Pound, Cath (7 August 2018). "The women Impressionists forgotten by history". BBC. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  13. ^ Tsjeng, Zing (14 March 2018). "Forgotten women in science: The Harvard Computers". Cosmos. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  14. ^ "Women had key roles in civil rights movement". 2005-10-29. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  15. ^ Clifton, Derrick (18 February 2015). "9 Influential Women in Black History You Won't Hear About in School". Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  16. ^ Jayes, Skylar (2015-06-11). "Federation of South African Women". South African History Online. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  17. ^ "The Forgotten Female Programmers Who Created Modern Tech". 6 October 2014. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  18. ^ Baraniuk, Chris (10 October 2017). "The female code-breakers who were left out of history books". BBC. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  19. ^ "Hacking the Nazis: The secret story of the women who broke Hitler's codes". TechRepublic. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  20. ^ Jones, Kristin M. "'Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers' Review: Highlighting a Forgotten History". WSJ. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  21. ^ Tsjeng, Zing (15 March 2018). "Forgotten women in science: Chien-Shiung Wu". Cosmos. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  22. ^ Poe, Gary R. (December 2003). "A Woman's Way: The Forgotten History of Women Spiritual Directors (Book)". Church History. 72 (4): 893. doi:10.1017/S0009640700097560. S2CID 162598427 – via EBSCOhost.
  23. ^ Bigby, Christine; Atkinson, Dorothy (2010). "Written Out of History: Invisible Women in Intellectual Disability Social Work". Australian Social Work. 63 (1): 4–17. doi:10.1080/03124070903482949. S2CID 145179867 – via EBSCOhost.
  24. ^ Westly, Erica (5 February 2016). "The Forgotten History of Women's Football". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  25. ^ Cretaz, Britni de la (2018-10-11). "'It was a spectacle': the forgotten era of women's bicycle racing". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  26. ^ Thoet, Allison (16 March 2018). "6 books that remember women's oft-forgotten WWI contributions". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  27. ^ Goldstein, Andrea N. (29 August 2018). "The Many Roles of Women in War: Sniper, Pilot, Death Camp Guard". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  28. ^ a b Kleeman, Jenny (2015). "The Sum of Male Knowledge". New Statesman. 144 (5263): 34–37 – via EBSCOhost.
  29. ^ Bergen, Sadie (1 September 2016). "Linking In: How Historians Are Fighting Wikipedia's Biases". Perspectives on History | AHA. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  30. ^ Kennedy, Kara (2017). "Why Women Should Be Editing Wikipedia". Women's Studies Journal. 31 (1): 94–99 – via EBSCOhost.
  31. ^ Nicosia, Lara (16 March 2018). "Why Wikipedia often overlooks stories of women in history". The Conversation. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  32. ^ Petersen, Lilli (June 4, 2016). "How This Woman Made The World Acknowledge Date Rape". Refinery29. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  33. ^ LaRoi, Heather (October 19, 1997). "Date Rape Victim to Talk at LU Today About Assault, Harassment". The Post-Crescent. Retrieved November 4, 2018 – via
  34. ^ "Wikidata:Notability". Wikidata. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  35. ^ Stephenson-Goodknight, Rosie (2016-12-07). "Viewpoint: How I tackle Wiki gender gap one article at a time". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-11-07.

External links[edit]