Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Dec 29 2014 02:00PM

The New York Times Magazine’s year-end obituary issue drew my attention to a death I’d missed last spring: that of Adrianne Wadewitz, a literature scholar who in 2007 wrote Wikipedia’s “Janeite” entry, in which she gave us credit for being the first fannish subculture.


Wadewitz, a prolific Wikipedia editor, also improved the “Jane Austen” entry and composed entries for a host of lesser-known female writers, bringing a feminist sensibility to a project sometimes stereotyped as a nerdy male preserve.


I’d never heard of Wadewitz before seeing the NYT tribute, but I’m glad to know her name. Wikipedia, the product of the unpaid collective labor of mostly anonymous contributors who together codify that which seems important and lasting, is a microcosm of culture-building. That work can’t lay claim to completeness if it doesn’t include female voices.


Wadewitz died, age thirty-seven, of injuries sustained in a rock-climbing accident.


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