I. Finding Gwen at the Edges
Gwendolyn Ann Smith was born on the last day of the cancer sign in 1967. She was
raised in the San Gabriel Valley of California and her career led her to San Francisco. Oddly, I
found her across the country in 2017, at a library-hosted Wikipedia edit-a-thon in Winston-
Salem, North Carolina.
In a long classroom on the south facing wing of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake
Forest University, a small group of participants gathered to write Wikipedia pages for members
of underrepresented communities. A library faculty member, Amanda Foster, assembled a list of
people—mostly women—from which we could choose. The name “Gwendolyn Ann Smith,”
caught my eye, probably because of my love for the poet, Gwendolyn Brooks. I remembered the
severity and power of short poems like We Real Cool and Of Robert Frost. I believe in signs, so I
chose Gwendolyn Ann Smith.
The mechanics of a Wikipedia edit-a-thon are simple once everyone has a person to
research. Each participant creates an account on Wikipedia and writes a page for the person they
are researching. Sounds easy? It’s not. There is one little stipulation: secondary sources. That is,
a writer must use sources created by someone else or the page is invalid. Generally, people will
use scholarly books and articles.
A primary source can be an interview with a person, or a diary. A secondary source is an
article or book that uses the primary source and often analyzes it. Good scholarly articles critique
or explain the primary source and are peer reviewed.