Last weekend, one tech-savvy team spearheaded a project to correct a major gender imbalance on the internet: in the second annual massive Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, groups of editors worldwide participated in an all-day mass update of Wikipedia entries pertaining to art and women. New York’s MoMA served as the control center for this year’s event, inviting the public to join in the communal edit-a-thon and providing tutorials and reference materials for the editors. More than 55 satellite events occurred simultaneously around the world.
Last year’s event was a huge success; participants at 31 locations created more than 100 new articles and edited another 90, plus the Wikipedia Foundation awarded a grant to the group to create +Feminism, an infrastructure permitting the event to be replicated by others. ArtNews reports that this year’s event proved even more successful, with over 1,300 volunteers worldwide creating 334 new articles on women artists.
“In the 21st century, when women have unprecedented freedoms, they are still marginalized, not just in the art world, but also on the digital plane, often relegated to a footnote or brief citation. While we’re still a distance from common-sense realities like equal pay for women, comprehensive childcare, and a reproductive rights bill, at least the digital world will be a slightly more female-friendly place after this weekend.”
On our own gallery blog, we will do our part to continue this important task by drawing attention to the work of female illustrators who have received minimal recognition in comparison to their male counterparts.
Our Women in Illustration series begins with Elenore Abbott (1875-1935), an influential 20th century artist. Abbott was a successful landscape painter, set designer, and illustrator for magazines including Harper’s, the Saturday Evening Post, and Scribner’s, and for books including early 20th century editions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Robinson Crusoe, and Treasure Island. She studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, as well as the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She also took classes at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, where she studied under master illustrator Howard Pyle.
Abbott’s extensive art education provided a solid basis for her own professional career, but her artistic passion went far beyond professional success. In a post-Victorian-era changing cultural climate, Abbott and her colleagues were some of the first to attempt to level the playing field and promote women’s art. Abbott was an early member of “The Plastic Club,” an organization of women artists promoting “art for art’s sake,” founded by painter Emily Sartain and fellow artists. These women were embracing some new freedoms, if minor, while embodying and even creating an identity of “New Women” seeking better educational and professional opportunities.
Abbott’s illustrations, whether accompanying children’s literature or lifestyle magazines, provide a glimpse into a shifting cultural moment; her art-nouveau aesthetic is a constant throughout her work, a hallmark of her own style and a snapshot of the beginning of this new era.