With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

The Library of Congress Wants Your Help Transcribing Suffragist Papers


Over the past year, By the People has introduced a number of “campaigns” calling on volunteers to transcribe the digitized papers of Abraham LincolnClara BartonWalt Whitman and others. The suffrage campaign coincides with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which was passed by Congress in June 1919 and ratified the following year. Library experts hope that by transcribing these documents, volunteers will not only help make suffrage materials more accessible, but also “engage with our collections and feel a connection with the suffragists,” as Elizabeth Novara, an American women’s history specialist and curator of a new suffragist exhibition at the library, puts it.

Anyone can participate in the transcription effort. Once a given page has been completed, it must be approved by at least one registered volunteer before it is integrated into the library’s main website. “It's a consensus model,” explains Lauren Algee, By the People’ senior innovation specialist, “similar to Wikipedia.” Users are encouraged to tag documents, with the goal of supplying additional information that would not be captured by the transcription.

“I can't easily tell you what's in a lot of these papers,” Algee says. “There are scholars who have looked through every page of them and could read off ... a list of all the stories that are included. But I can't easily search for those things. Having volunteers delve into these papers, it's going to bring more of those stories to light.”

Awaiting transcription are documents pertaining to five suffrage leaders, among them Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, two giants of the movement. The documents attest not only to their working relationship, but also to the intimacies that existed between them and their colleagues. In 1896, for instance, Anthony wrote to Stanton’s daughter Harriot Stanton Blatch, who was also a women’s rights crusader, to express her condolences for the death of Blatch’s young daughter.

Read entire article at Smithsonian Magazine