Wikimedia Foundation/Communications/WikiCelebrate/Penny Richards

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Penny Richards

Finding joy in what she contributes to Wikimedia and how she accomplishes that is fundamental for Penny Richards (userpage). Penny loves that she can make connections with folks around the world and join efforts with a large global project like Wikipedia all the while from home and in her pajamas.

It’s a chance to use my research and writing skills every day. I don’t have an academic job and I don’t have space in my life for a big independent research project right now, but a daily biography is manageable and satisfying. [...] My usual project on Wikipedia is WikiProject Women in Red; that’s where I put most of my energy and find most of my community.

Leafing her way through history

Penny has a passion for learning about people and leafing through old newspapers, yearbooks and journals. Naturally, biographies comprise a large part of her contributions to Wikimedia. Penny tries to edit an article a day, most days–whether to create anew, improve or add images. She also shares her own and the work of her community on other platforms, like Pinterest, Twitter, and more recently, Mastodon. The portrait of Alberta Virginia Scott is one of her favourites and she loves to do justice to the stories behind such powerful photos.

I have loved biographical dictionaries forever–my grandmother had Webster’s Biographical Dictionary, and I liked looking at all the names and stories in it, even as a kid. [...] When I was teaching school, I’d have students write short biographies, for example about women in the French Revolution.

Encouraged by Wikimedian Cliotropic, Penny started her Wikimedia account in 2011. Even when historical sources are incomplete, she believes in using whatever is available (and reliable), and is grateful to the Wikipedia Library for that. However, this isn't just a problem of the past. The inequalities in available resources are very much alive today. Penny dares us to "imagine a media landscape where, instead of constant celebrity updates, there’d be abundant, accessible, and informative articles in local and national outlets about what engineers or microbiologists are doing, or poets, educators, nurses, or archaeologists. If we had more diverse news stories and magazine articles, we’d have the secondary sources for a wider range of Wikipedia articles too."

Penny also likes to contribute to WikiQuote as a way to represent more voices and add more accurate sourcing for them. Penny shares a quote about Florence Foster Jenkins who, like her, was from Pennsylvania: "Critics have long wondered whether Coloratura Jenkins' art can be described as singing at all. But she will intrepidly attack any aria, scale its altitudes in great swoops and hoots, assaying its descending trills with the vigor of a maudlin cuckoo." (Time magazine, November 2, 1942)

Connections around the world

If she’s not working on something for WikiProject Women in Red, she might be supporting WikiProject Disability or the Los Angeles group. Making connections is another encouragement for Penny to keep contributing. The social side of Wikimedia is integral to our existence, whether participating in a project or edit-a-thon or engaging in civil discourse online to improve articles, and it can reverberate far beyond. Penny was working on an article about a Paris-based dancer, Nyota Inyoka (1896-1971), and had mentioned that the Getty Institute had videotape of her dancing, with a link to their catalog record. A dance historian in France contacted her, excited to learn this, and wondered if Penny could help her see this video. A few emails later, the historian in France was viewing moving images of her research subject. That made Penny happy.

Everyone can share in the sum of all human knowledge and Penny recommends newcomers to start small. "If you enjoy learning about, say, Canadian writers, maybe don’t start with editing the actual article titled "Canadian literature," Penny says. "Instead, look for an article about a writer or a genre that you can improve, make small edits at first, learn something new each time. When you’re feeling comfortable, try starting an article about a writer or a book that’s on a "redlist" (so you know at least one other editor thinks it might be a good topic!)." Penny even recommends editing about topics one is somewhat unfamiliar with, to truly rely on sources and learn something new in the process. "As a bonus," Penny says, "if you’re not too attached to your edits, it won’t feel personal if/when they get deleted or changed."

Weaving the web of Wikimedia

For Penny, pressing publish on a new article is only halfway done, it’s a whole other beginning. That’s the time to weave the new information into the fabric of Wikipedia by creating links, adding the article to appropriate lists, and connecting with related projects. Watching changes happen to an article can help one learn too. Asking for help is another and Penny believes in it. There are many ways to make connections with others inside and outside the movement by contributing. Gardening is a metaphor used sometimes in relation to contributing to Wikimedia. For many, pruning and trimming their articles or watching them blossom and grow is the joy of it all.

"Small contributions add up. You don’t have to learn everything before you jump in. It’s not "all done already." There’s a lot of community to be found, by joining a WikiProject or an edit-a-thon, and working towards a goal together with other editors all over the world."

Join the celebrations

We would love your input. If there are congratulations or words of appreciation you would like to publicly share, please do it here. Your message will appear at the bottom of this page.

Small contributions add up. You don’t have to learn everything before you jump in. It’s not "all done already." There’s a lot of community to be found, by joining a WikiProject or an edit-a-thon, and working towards a goal together with other editors all over the world.

Main project:
WikiProject Women in Red

First started editing: 2011

Favorite image on Wikimedia Commons: Portrait of Alberta Virginia Scott

Congratulations, Penny!

I met Penny years ago, but already knew about her work on Wikipedia. Dedicated, meticulous, she exemplifies the thoughtful researcher. Penny is an inspiration to me and many others. Congratulations for this honor, Penny! Well deserved! --Rosiestep (talk) 14:35, 17 March 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Yay for Penny

Penny is such an inspirational editor. I love to see the women she's worked on. She's also so helpful if you have a question and a great cheerleader! Thanks for all your wonderful work! Lajmmoore (talk) 18:45, 17 March 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Thank you Penny

You are a tireless contributor and enthusiastic participant in WiR. For those who don't know, among many other things, Penny is the editor who maintains the Women in Red Pinterest pages. I love seeing all those faces :) WomenArtistUpdates (talk) 20:33, 17 March 2023 (UTC)[reply]

One of my favourites

You certainly deserve such high recognition. Almost every day I come across evidence of your creative work on women's biographies or your useful contributions to the Women in Red talk page. Congratulations!--Ipigott (talk) 06:45, 18 March 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Thank You!

This is a wonderful tribute to a Wikipedian who is truly making a positive difference. Thank you, Penny, for all that you've and will continue to do. - 47thPennVols (talk) 16:03, 20 March 2023 (UTC)[reply]


Congrats Penny, your contributions are very essential to the human kind . Keep the fire burning ɴᴅᴀʜɪʀᴏ ᴅᴇʀʀɪᴄᴋ 🐎 (talk) 17:32, 21 March 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Traveling Lady

Kingdom Building Work Take Being About Our Father's Business. Kingdom Builders World Foundation INC LLC (talk) 06:09, 24 March 2023 (UTC)[reply]


I'm so grateful for Penny, and Women in Red in general. EponineBunnyKickQueen (talk) 16:21, 24 March 2023 (UTC)[reply]


Congratulations and thank you to everyone who contributes to Wikipedia. I use it and recommend it to others every day. A spectacular jewel. 2600:1010:B058:A2A3:144E:B37A:86D6:9C3F 00:22, 3 April 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Congratulations Penny

Congratulations Penny, I love all what you are doing, all the wonderful women biographies you wrote (some of them Italian women, and you comunicated us by tagging WikiDonne on Twitter. Thank you . Camelia (talk) 19:07, 19 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]