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ELADD Website Celebrates Prominent Women Writers

Published: November 15, 2013

The Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures Department is reaching out in two languages—English and Spanish—with a story of Latin American women writers overlooked by history.

A website called ELADD or Escritoras Latinoamericanas Del Diecinueve (Latin American Women Writers of the 19th Century) now offers a biographical and bibliographical resource for 20 of the most celebrated women writers as well as 55 lesser-known writers.

“What we have done as a first step is to populate the pages of 20 of the most prominent writers with biographical data so scholars and the simply curious can access this information,” said RGRLL Spanish Professor Claire Emilie Martin, who created the website with RGRLL lecturer Nelly Goswitz and former university librarian Eileen Bosch. “We have invited some of the best scholars in the field of 19th-century Latin American studies who will continually provide us with more information about conferences, courses, videos and other sources so interested people can connect through this website. Users can access the website and upload a video or read blogs and get links to academic websites. We want to be a repository for all of this information including links to other websites related to 19th-century women writers in Latin America. The idea is to centralize all this disparate information found on the Internet and make our website its repository. Scholars and interested individuals can come here to find a space where they can talk to one another.”

Visitors to the website can find biographical information about the women writers, a photo gallery and a series of related links.

“The website is a work in progress,” said Martin. “The idea began in 2008 with the on-campus conference of the Grupo de Estudios Sobre la Mujer en España y las Américas Pre-1800 (Group for the Study of Pre-1800 Women in Spain and the Americas), whose scholarship focuses on women in in the medieval, colonial and early modern periods. The conference, titled ‘Cultural Crosscurrents: Women in Spain and the Americas,’ featured more than 70 speakers from the U.S., Latin America and Europe.”

At the conference, a series of speakers presented a European Union website dedicated to women writers before 1800. Goswitz was interested in launching a similar project focusing upon 19th-century Latin American women writers. Working with the University Library, they were able to obtain support for the 18-month project to design the website and enter the initial information with the assistance of two undergraduate and graduate students.

ELADD Website Celebrates Women Writers

The website will rely upon contributing experts to serve as ad hoc curators.

“As soon as they see a new article, book or conference, they can contact the website and we will upload the information,” Martin explained. “Participants can benefit by reading and accessing the site and contributing to its expansion.”

The website reflects the RGRLL Department’s commitment to collaboration and research, Martin feels.

“We conduct research with students and every semester faculty members take students to conferences or prepare them to present. It may seem simple when a faculty member attends a conference with her students, but it can take months to plan and execute,” she said. “Participation like that takes time, dedication and mentoring but it is symptomatic of what this department and this college do best.”

In a small way, this website reflects the continuing struggles of Latinos in this country, she said.

“So many of the challenges that were central to women in the 19th century are sadly still with us today,” said Martin. “They may be a little more nuanced and less strident today but are present. These issues are still very much a part of their lives. Some Latinas still face a lack of access to education and a lack of support from families. They deal with issues of space, time and money to pursue their education. These are very real concerns for Latina students.”

Martin wants visitors to the website to walk away with a heightened interest in these women writers.

“I hope they will be motivated to fill some of the critical blanks in these women’s biographies and bibliographies by becoming contributors to the website,” she said. “There is much to learn about these women that may be found only in private collections, far away archives and libraries. This is why a website like ours invites scholars and students alike to meet and explore in this shared space.”

–Richard Manly