WWP The Project Newsletter Archive Volume 3,Number 2 From the Director

From the Director

Carol DeBoer-Langworthy

By the time you read this NewsLetter, some of you will have received my letter inviting you to become a charter member of the new and official Friends of the WWP (FWWP). This is part of a new initiative the Project is launching in 1998: constituency-based fundraising to support the ongoing work of the WWP. As with most such things, there's a fairly long and complicated story behind it. When the founders of the WWP first envisioned the Project in 1986, they thought there might be on the order of 1,000 rare texts by women to be recovered. We now know that that number could have been multiplied ten-fold. With the recent explosion of interest in early women's writing, scholars have found significant holdings in libraries all over the world. For the pre-Victorian period, there are thousands of published texts yet to be encoded, and more are being discovered and catalogued every year. These include, besides the expected literary categories of fiction, history, poetry and drama: religious writing (personal narrative as well as spiritual writing and poetry); political writing, including campaigns for abolition of slavery or against cruelty to animals; specialized topic writing, including medical, philosophical, and local history; and advice and conduct books. Projects like the Corvey Project at Sheffield Hallam University are now working on documenting large collections of women's writing which the WWP eventually hopes to encode.

Since its founding over ten years ago, the Project has begun to fill a tremendous need to provide texts by early modern women and make them available in a format friendly to a wide variety of readers. Even rare texts captured in microfilming are user-unfriendly except to scholars already trained in what can seem to be strange spellings and typographic practices of early periods. Encoding puts the texts into a medium with which today's potential users feel much more at home, in addition to making possible a wide range of searching and processing possibilities. Computers have made it possible to turn up in a few months' time the kind of material that used to take literally a lifetime to gather.

Brown University has been the major supporter of the WWP since 1988, providing cost-sharing and direct University support to the Project's five consecutive major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). In recent years, support also has come from such private foundations as The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (for the WWP's Renaissance Women Online initiative), Apple Computer, Inc., and other agencies (the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities for the Elizabeth I dramatization).

But what's often been lost in the credits to funding agencies are the individual people whose gifts--both large and small--have helped the Project meet NEH matching grant requirements and aided the Project in a myriad of ways. Friends of the WWP (FWWP) is designed to give credit to such people and to encourage others to join in this method of supporting our work. As I tell prospective members in the letter, it is hoped that FWWP can provide ongoing annual support to assist in the costs of activities that will, themselves, engender more support for the Project. This in no way diminishes the contributions the Project has had from its many friends who have provided hundreds of hours of scholarly labor and expertise to the Project.

New members of FWWP will each receive a complimentary WWP text from the textbase, an optional listing as a Friend of the WWP on the Project's Web site, and an invitation to an annual social event. The kickoff FWWP event will be held at the Providence home of Sheila ffolliott, professor of art history at George Mason University and a member of the WWP's Research Board.

The target goal for Friends of the WWP is to raise at least $20,000 a year in unrestricted dollars to assist in Project tasks such as this NewsLetter. Especially in the current funding climate, it is crucial that the WWP develop a base of support from the people who know us best, so that we can confidently plan the future development of the WWP textbase as a growing enterprise that does, indeed, seek to capture all of women's published writings in our time period.

If you want more information on Friends of the WWP and did not receive a mailing, feel free to send me email or call (401-863-2135) and I'll happily send you a letter of invitation.

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