Heritage groups organise writing sessions to bring women out of obscurity

On International Women's Day, 15 Flemish heritage organisations are organising a writing session to give women hidden in the archives a presence on Wikipedia, De Standaard reports.

The initiative to mark 8 March, a day dedicated to women and women's rights for more than 100 years, is led by the Guido Gezelle Archive, which preserves the correspondence of the Flemish Roman Catholic priest, poet, satirist, linguist, teacher, journalist and translator of the same name.

The writing day is taking place in the Bruges library, the Hendrik Conscience cultural library in Antwerp, Meemoo in Ghent and Kadoc in Leuven. With it, the organisers are calling for more attention to be paid to women in biographical databases and catalogues, where they are still under-represented.

On Wikipedia, only 15 per cent of English pages are about women. This gap is starting to close, but there is still a long way to go.

Women are equal

Gezelle corresponded with 1,000 people, including 200 women lost to history. "Our collection contains 600 letters from women," researcher Els Depuydt told De Standaard. "From family members to factory girls, from women seeking help to nuns, baronesses and bourgeois women, as well as many English women. Bruges had a large English colony."

One of the letters is from Helena, wife of the art historian James Weale, who wrote openly about her difficult marriage, said Liesbeth Lalouch, who is coordinating the writing day. "Thank you for your positive opinion of women," Helena wrote in response to a letter in which Gezelle alludes to the belief that men and women are equal. Lalouch: "This challenges the image of Gezelle as a conservative priest."

Every year, on 8 March, International Women's Day celebrates militancy and the sense of solidarity of women around the world, usually based on a specific theme. This year, the theme is "Invest in women: accelerate progress", through which the United Nations wants to demonstrate that progress for women benefits society.


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