Wikimedian activist Adrianne Wadewitz dies

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

A video from 2012 where Wadewitz discusses the impact of Wikipedia
Image: Vgrigas.

News broke early this morning on Facebook that Wikipedian Adrianne Wadewitz died while rock climbing recently. Wadewitz was well known in the Wikimedia community for her activism drawing attention to the lack of female contributors on Wikipedia. She was also very involved in the Wiki Education Foundation, serving as a member of its board of directors.

Wadewitz was one of the most visible women in the media on the under-representation of women amongst contributors to Wikipedia, talking to media organizations like the BBC, the Huffington Post and non-English publications like Greek-language magazine LIFO. Some estimates put female participation rates at around 10% of contributors and there is a body of academic work talking about systemic bias against topics featuring women on Wikipedia.

She was involved in organizing several edit-a-thons aimed at encouraging greater female participation and improving content about women, including Wikipedia Takes America: Los Angeles, FemTech Edit-a-thon, Wikipedia Loves Eagle Rock, Wikipedia Loves WeHo, and Feminists Engage Wikipedia. Wadewitz's own work to address systemic bias as an article contributor included improving English Wikipedia articles relating to women, including:

Adrianne embodied brilliance, determination, and enthusiasm in everything she did

—Tribute by a fellow Wikimedian

The funerary arrangement picture decorating the top of Wadewitz's Wikipedia talk page.
Image: Mogens Engelund.

She started contributing to English Wikipedia in July 2004. She had taught two classes on collaborative work on the project, and was involved with FemTechNet Wikistorming, an academic effort to encourage more women involved in academia to contribute to Wikipedia. In the past month, she had written several blog entries on HASTAC, an online collaborative platform dedicated to changing the way people learn, about how to write about academics on Wikipedia.

Fellow activist Sarah Stierch said in a public post on Facebook, "My heart hurts. Adrianne was a leading voice - and her legacy still is - in the work we have been doing to get more women and more diverse peoples contributing to Wikipedia. Two days ago she was quoted in the BBC, for godsake." Stierch went on to say, "A sarcastic, feminist, smart, brilliant, to the point delivery type of academic genius who held an honest love life for all to see and a life in LA that was becoming one she owned."

At the time of her death, she was a Mellon Digital Scholarship Fellow at Occidental College. In 2011, she earned her PhD from Indiana University.

Wikimedians are memorializing her on her Wikipedia talk page, which is adorned with a picture of a funerary arrangement of flowers. A notice at the top of the page invites condolences, which have been arriving in their dozens. "This is a crushing loss, for the Wikipedia community and the world. There was no one else like her." wrote one contributor. Another noted "Adrianne embodied brilliance, determination, and enthusiasm in everything she did."


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.