A foray into Wikipedia
I am amazed by how things work out.
I have this book, for instance, from my childhood; it’s called Bridget’s Growing Day. The book was originally my older sister’s, but it’s mine now. It has my name after all.
The book is about - obviously - Bridget, a young girl in Ireland who, being small for her age, desperately wants to prove herself. Bridget gets her chance when her parents have to go into town for the day to see about her mother’s toothache, leaving her to do all the chores. Disaster nearly strikes for wee Bridget when Patrick, the family pig, escapes! All ends well, however, as Patrick is found and both Bridget and her parents are proud.
Sometime back, I realized I hadn’t seen the original in a long time, so I ordered a copy from Amazon just to have. The book I got was incredibly disappointing. It was the same book I remembered inside, but the cover was all wrong. It was orange instead of green and the picture on it of Bridget chasing Patrick was different.
Now though, I have the original again. It’s quite a relief.
Just out of curiosity one day, as the restored green copy sat on my nightstand, I decided to look up the author and illustrator of the book, Winifred Bromhall, whose name I had paid not one whit of attention to ever before. I expected to find, as I do with every other person or thing I Google these days, a Wikipedia page documenting her life and, what I would come to learn is, her considerable bibliography.
But I did not.
In fact, mostly what I found were links to sellers of books; books by other authors she lent her illustrations to as well as books that she both authored and illustrated herself. I found very little biographical details at all and what I did find was scattered over several disparate sites.
This was, I have to admit, at the same time disappointing and exciting. How often do we get this opportunity anymore? To unearth things about a notable person’s life so as to share them with others? In other words, to be a biographer? I mean, I’m guessing based on my own assumption that she’d have an entry, not often, right?
Well, I immediately decided I would write a book about her. I would write her biography!
And then almost as quickly, I realized how nearly impossible that was going to be without more information to go on. I have no letters or journals or other papers. And she was born and educated in England; I have no access to local or school records unless I travel there.
So my idea seemed to fizzle before it ever really started until it came to me that writing a book was not the only way to make note of this notable woman. Why not at least give her what nearly everyone else of note has by now and create her Wikipedia page?!?
And so I shall.
But did you know, that before you can just publish a brand new page you have to have at least 10 edits of other pages? I didn’t either, but you do.
So I began a quest to find other pages to which I might contribute and in doing so, I located a page for Winifred’s sister, Margaret, notable in her own right for being a pioneer in the field of radiography! I will soon be adding a note about Winifred to this existing page, but for now, both women have new entries in the notable residents’ section of the page for their home town of Walsall, England.
Just these couple lines thrilled me beyond belief.
Because even without the book that I’d initially thought I might write, I’m still accomplishing what I set out to - I’m following my curiosity and learning more about Winifred’s life, and I’m also sharing what I find with others who might be curious as well. And even once her page is written, I likely won’t stop learning about her and adding to it, just as I’m adding her illustration credit to the bibliographies on the pages of other relevant authors.
Perhaps someday I’ll still take that trip to England and I really will write that full-length biography; perhaps this biography that I write will not just be about Winifred either, but about both Bromhall sisters of Walsall. Or perhaps it won’t be a biography at all, but instead a historical fiction about the two and their divergent paths; how one became a writer and the other became a scientist.
I have no idea, but even just considering the possibilities is fun.
And I guess all this is to say that I’m glad I didn’t give up on Winifred and that I was open to an alternative idea. I’m glad I was able to both honor the life and work of this woman whose book I so cherish and to honor where I am in life and the work I am capable of doing.
I see the lesson as such: I didn’t wait to do the big thing and end up doing nothing; instead, I did a small thing that allowed me to do something.
After all, a bunch of little things completed could eventually be the big thing.