Recovering women in the digital age

Recent PhD graduates will run a Wikipedia edit-a-thon to highlight the women who were instrumental in the setting up and running of the first Foundling Hospital.

Nurse at Summer Camp. Image courtesy of Coram.

Three PhD graduates from Birkbeck’s Department of English and Humanities are running a Wikipedia edit-a-thon, or “Wikithon”, to highlight the contributions and stories of women and the Foundling Museum that have hitherto been overlooked.

Led by Flore Janssen, Alexis Wolf and Beatrice Bazell, the Wikithon is part of a project called Editing the Long Nineteenth Century: Recovering Women in the Digital Age, which aims to increase the digital presence of notable women by setting up their Wikipedia pages. They will run the workshop on 17 November with a step-by-step introduction to setting up stub articles at the beginning of the session.

Explaining the project, they said: “Many women of the long nineteenth century have not received the historical attention they deserve. While many had a significant impact on contemporary art, literature, science, politics, social reform, and other important fields, the work to recover these women is only just beginning. Ensuring that these women have a digital presence is a crucial part of making them discoverable for broad audiences and new researchers. Our Wikithon invites you to participate in the project of increasing the digital presence of the unjustly forgotten women of the long nineteenth century.”

They have previously organised Wikithons with the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies and for Birkbeck Arts Week.

The Wikithon comes in conjunction with an initiative to bring together and exhibit the portraits of the ‘ladies of quality and distinction,' who signed Thomas Coram’s original petition to King George II in 1735, calling for the establishment of a Foundling Hospital. Their paintings will temporarily replace the portraits of male governors that line the walls of the Foundling Museum’s Picture Gallery, reuniting the Ladies on the site of the charity they helped establish, and highlighting their role in shaping British society today.

Highlighted stories include: Mrs Prudence West, a female inspector and the only woman to run a branch Hospital; Miss Eleanor Barnes, one of the earliest female Governors of the Hospital; Mrs Elizabeth Leicester, an early matron of the Foundling Hospital who oversaw some of its most challenging years; and Jane Pett, a dry nurse highly acclaimed for her exceptional care.

Caro Howell, Director of the Foundling Museum said: “Women of every social class permeate every aspect of the Foundling Hospital story. After centuries of omission, their revolutionary, catalytic and invaluable contributions can at last be celebrated.”

This event is part of the Being Human festival, led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.

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