Nevada City’s Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight named co-Wikipedian of 2016 for addressing online gender gap
As a child, Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight aspired to be a culture anthropologist. But upon the persuasion of her father, she opted for a “practical major” and obtained a bachelor and masters degree in business.
But little did Stephenson-Goodknight know that many years later, she would transform her passion for diverse cultures and people into thousands of articles on Wikipedia for information-seekers all over the world. As a volunteer content editor on the site, she focuses on subjects like architecture and geography, and shines light on obscure but notable women from the past and present. Her work recently caught the attention of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who in June named Stephenson-Goodknight during the annual Wikimania as “Wikipedian of 2016,” an award she shares with fellow content editor Emily Temple-Wood, for their collective effort in expanding women biographies and addressing gender disparity on the site. Stephenson-Goodknight and Temple-Wood are the first joint-recipients of the annual award, which was established in 2011 to honor Wikipedians who have achieved significant accomplishments for Wikipedia.
“If someone had asked me, ‘Rosie, do you think it’s more likely that you would win the lottery, or that you would be awarded co-Wikipedian of the year?’” said Stephenson-Goodknight. “I would’ve said that it’s much more likely that I would win the lottery, except I would never buy the ticket for the lottery.”
Since entering her first entry on Wikipedia in 2007, the 62-year-old resident of Nevada City has created over 4,000 entries and made more than 100,000 edits under her username: Rosiestep. In addition, she founded, WikiProject Women writers, and co-founded WikiWomen’s User Group, WikiProject Women in Red, and WikiProject Women. She is also the third user and first woman to have more than 1,000 entries on “Did you know,” a section of the English Wikipedia Main Page that exhibits nominated new or expanded articles.
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The Southern California native works as a business administrator at an international health organization in Las Vegas, Nevada, and divides her time between her homes in Nevada City and Las Vegas. She describes herself as a “curious person in nature.”
Therefore it’s not surprising that Stephenson-Goodknight’s first brush as an editor for Wikipedia came nine years ago when she was searching for a book publisher called “Book League of America” while visiting her younger son Sean in San Francisco. To her surprise, she couldn’t find an article about the company on Wikipedia. That was when Sean showed her how to edit on the site and decided to take on the task.
“I thought if Sean could figure it out, I could too. So I created my username and I wrote about Book League of America. It felt good to do that,” she said. “That month in June, I wrote a couple more things. I felt like I got hooked. It satisfies me greatly to be able to do that.”
Stephenson-Goodknight has an extensive collection of old novels and her favorite pastime is trawling through 19th century books.
“In the back of my mind, my thought process is ‘If I don’t write about this, who will? If I don’t do it now, when will I do it?’” she said. “That kind of mantra plays in the back of my head. It’s kind of like, I’ve found a gem in history. I need to do something with this gem. If I don’t, it might be lost for all times.”
Nevertheless, Stephenson-Goodknight said her passion for editing came from her grandmother, Paulina Lebl-Albala, who was a Serbian textbook editor, feminist, translator, and literary critic, who served as the first president of the Yugoslav Association of University-Educated Women.
“Knowing those things about her when I was growing up, I always thought of her as some kind of role model,” she said. “And when I started editing Wikipedia. I felt if anyone would understand why I am so enamored with being an editor, it would’ve been my grandmother.”
Since joining Wikipedia, Stephenson-Goodknight has continued to devote her time and effort into filling the information gap for women on the site. She founded WikiProject Women writers in 2014, a project which seeks to bring attention to the work of female writers and their biographies.
In 2015, Stephenson-Goodknight co-founded the WikiProject Women in Red, which aims to turn “redlinks” into blue ones by expanding coverage of women. In 2014, only 15.5 percent of all the articles on the site were on women. Due to the collective effort of the group, that number has increased to 16.35 percent this June, which means that out of the 1,375,577 biographies on the site, 224,943 are now about women.
“The articles about women are far less developed than the biographies about men. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve written a lot of biographies about men. There is nothing negative to be said about that. No one is trying to influence anyone to not do that,” she said. “I think it’s just a matter of saying ‘Here is an area that needs some attention.’”
Among her numerous entries is an activist named Deolinda Rodríguez de Almeida who was tortured and dismembered alive due to her leadership role in the Angolan revolutionary movement. Stephenson-Goodknight also wrote about the Pan-American Conference of Women, a convention during which delegates from the U.S., South America, Central America, Mexico and Canada discussed subjects such as child welfare, education, and women in history.
Stephenson-Goodknight hopes to inspire more female editors to follow in her footsteps and to increase female participation on Wikipedia. Though her involvement on the site is voluntary, she gets a great sense of satisfaction from her work on Wikipedia, which she describes as her “happy place.”
“I love it, and I don’t know how not to do it,” she said.
To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 530-477-4236.
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