Print Project Proposal: Raising Hell

After the Civil War, as a reaction to the industrialization of the country’s economic landscape, working-class men mobilized to protest dangerous working conditions, low wages, and the constraints placed on their lives as a result of heightened income inequality. While white men dominate the historical narratives of labor activism, prominent women such as Mary G. Harris Jones and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn compelled members of the working class to resist the current market structure by striking against their employers. Both Jones and Flynn traveled to labor strikes around the country to vocalize their support and garnered attention for their impassioned tones and radical messages. Despite their shared dedication to labor activism, Jones and Flynn promoted disparate views about the Industrial Workers of the World, the Socialist Party, and the role of women in the labor force.

Revolution Organize GIF by Industrial Workers of the World - Find & Share on GIPHY

As the scholarly work conducted on labor is gradually absorbed into the expanding historiography of capitalism and unions remain under constant threat, I think it is important to continue interpreting the speeches and texts produced by labor activists especially those erased from the historical narrative. Juxtaposing the works of Flynn and Jones raises important questions about how different generations within the labor movement addressed contemporary social movements, specifically women’s rights. Elizbeth Gurley Flynn who was born in 1890 and entered the labor scene in the mid-1900s adamantly supported women’s suffrage and birth control. Jones, who was born in the 1830s believed the suffrage movement obfuscated the ubiquity of the exploitation of workers by corporations. A side-by-side comparison also provides a platform to interpret the rhetorical differences between the two activists, and how Jones and Flynn expressed their incontrovertible dedication to the movement.

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For the paper project, I am proposing to use text analysis to compare speeches and publications produced by Flynn and Jones throughout their respective careers in the organized labor movement. By running their published works and transcripts of their speeches through Voyant Tools I can determine where their rhetorical choices overlapped and what issues they fundamentally disagreed on. By contextualizing these records, I can analyze how different social movements and events that erupted during the early twentieth century influenced what they said and wrote. While conducting preliminary research I found speeches conducted by Jones and Flynn in 1912 and 1914, respectively. A possible setback I foresee with this project is the absence of any digitized form of Flynn’s early street speeches online, which makes sense since she presented most of them before she was an established labor activist. However, the University of Washington digitized the newspapers of the Industrial Workers of the World which include numerous articles written by Flynn. A compilation of speeches and writings of Jones exists in the form of a book published and digitized by the University of Pittsburg.

Exploring the Rabbit Hole that is Wikipedia

This blog post explores both how administrators manage Wikipedia and the discrepancies within articles published around a common theme.

Upon entering middle school my teachers adamantly informed students that Wikipedia, while useful as a starting point, is an unreliable resource and should not be cited in research papers. The six million, free to access, articles make the web-based encyclopedia a tempting resource to use for quick information. It is probable to assume that a majority of the articles published in the site relate to some aspect of history. The accessibility of the site differentiates from databases such as ProQuest and JSTOR, which as Roy Rosenzweig affirms in his article “Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past” require hefty subscription costs.

The open-source model of Wikipedia allows anonymous its “volunteer army” to collaboratively edit the information on the site, and grants individuals the freedom to copy text from Wikipedia and post it on their own personal sites. By doing this, users must acknowledge that the content on their website is under the same limitations and restrictions as Wikipedia.

To understand how Wikipedia works and managed I searched three interrelated topics: the Colorado Labor Wars, Bill Haywood, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. I examined the layout of each page as well as the “Talk” and “View History” tabs located at the top of the pages.

The “Talk” tab informs users how the editors of Wikipedia rate the quality of the information published on the individual page as well as its importance in relation to other articles published around this topic. As you can see in the screenshot below site administrators indicated that when compared to other articles published on organized labor the on the Colorado Labor Wars is rated as mid-importance. In terms of quality, the article is placed in the B-Class which indicates that it is suitable.

The “View History” tab reveals the frequency of the edits and which accounts are making them. By skimming through this tab I learned that the creator and one of the more frequent editors of the article, Richard Myers, is a graphic designer, union activist, and thirty-three-year member of the AFL-CIO. This background information provides context as to why someone created a page on a series of intense labor conflicts erased from historical narratives about the turn of the twentieth century. According to his user page, site administrators deemed Myers a “Veteran Editor,” which acknowledges his contributions his two years of service to the site and eight thousand edits.

A search for Bill Haywood produces an article that features a green plus symbol. This marking indicates that site administrators deemed this a “good article.” Of the little of six million articles published on Wikipedia, editors only granted this title to a little over thirty thousand.

The third search I conducted on notable labor activist, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, revealed the discrepancies within the amount of attention and information afforded to articles highlighting women. Despite the editors deeming this article of high importance, it remains at a C-Class on the quality scale. While the quality of the article on Haywood has gone through reassessments so editors could deem it a “good article” the one published on Flynn, who also made invaluable contributions to organized labor, neither provides the same wealth of information nor maintained to the same standard as articles written about prominent male labor activists.

These discrepancies expose the gender biases embedded within the site.

Hi, I’m Leah

I’m a first-year Public History MA student at AU. I am originally from northern New Jersey. I graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2019 where I majored in history and wrote my thesis on the change in the interpretation of John Brown’s Raid. During college, I worked as an interpretive intern at Gettysburg National Military Park and as a living history intern at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. My focus is the Civil War as well as mid to late 19th-century immigration and labor activism.

I decided to attend American because of all the opportunities within Washington, DC, and the support of the professors and alumni community. I am currently working as a National Park Ranger at George Washington Memorial Parkway. I have had the opportunity to create pop-up programs about Jones Point and the Marine Corps as well as interact with visitors through our Mobile Visitor Center. I am also working as a curriculum development intern for Blake Learning Solutions, an instructional design company contracted to create the education program for Arlington National Cemetery. As an intern, I conduct research on important figures interred at Arlington Cemetery and create informative walking tours for student groups and lifelong learners. As a result of this internship, I now hope to pursue a career as an education specialist.

Through this course, I hope to learn how to learn about the theories and methods behind “digital history” as well as the different digital tools and databases used by academic and public historians. I also hope to conduct more mapping projects as I thoroughly enjoyed creating those in undergrad.

I am also a huge soccer fan and very excited for the USWNT to secure their fifth Gold Medal at the Olympics this year!! Oosa-Oosa-Oosa-Ah!!

Megan Rapinoe Reaction GIF by EA SPORTS FIFA - Find & Share on GIPHY
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I am also a Tottenham Hotspur fan. #COYS

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Defining Digital History

Defining Digital History

In this post, I will discuss how the first four readings analyze and contextualize “digital history” within the evolving field of history. Natalie Cecire’s article “Introduction: Theory and the Virtues of Digital Humanities” explores the debates concerning the role of digital humanities within different disciplines. The remaining articles and monograph chapters focus on the growth of “digital history.” Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig along with Jo Gludi and David Armitage discuss its ability to permeate information for professional historians and inquisitive citizens. Leon, however, critiques the scholarly work published on the emergence of “digital history” for erasing the efforts made by female historians to advance the field.

 Natalie Cecire adopts a broader approach in her article by analyzing how scholars understand the theory of “digital humanities.” She argues that its emergence produces new questions about the demarcation of “saying” and “doing”. This article introduces an edition of The Journal of Digital Humanities that includes a diverse range of scholars engaging in interdisciplinary debates over the question of “digital humanities and theory” and the epistemology of how to approach the field. Cecire implores scholars to continue developing the field so students who lacked the necessary tools in the past can easily use digital tools and databases.

Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig published their monograph, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, as a response to the emergence of “digital history” as a scholarly phenomenon. In this monograph, they question what modern technological resources such as computers, the internet, and different forms of digital media will help advance the scholarly work conducted by academic historians, and public historians. Cohen and Rosenzweig also argue that while advanced technology allows for greater access to information it provides amateur historians a platform to promulgate mythologized interpretations of history and doctored photographs. They acknowledge that people manipulated photographs before the internet existed and that the ubiquity of false information found online is no more of an issue than its presence in other aspects of society. However, taking into account the potency of social media, specifically its use as a vehicle to inculcate citizens with false information I think this argument has lost some standing within the field.

Jo Gludi and David Armitage argue that the emergence of longue durée within the field of history relies on the digitization of archives that can allow both academic and amateur historians to analyze changes over time. They argue that the proliferation of online databases and tools, such as Paper Machines, combats the traditional forms of research that reinforced the “gatekeeping” aspect of academic history and produces revisionist histories that include marginalized voices. Through these digital tools, overwhelming data sets produced by government agencies will be more palatable for historians and students.

In her article, “Returning Women to the History of Digital History,” digital historian Sharon Leon criticizes the published scholarly work on the “theories and methods” of “digital history” for erasing the impact of women in the field. Leon argues that despite this absence female digital historians are creating projects significant to the field, such as the work done by Monica Mercado with Bryn Mawr College’s Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education. As “digital historians” continue to unearth and promote the narratives of marginalized voices the work conducted by women to create these projects must be recognized as well.