Sad news. Wikipedia editor Adrianne Wadewitz, 37, died on April 8 from injuries she sustained from a rock climbing accident in Joshua Tree National Park, according to the New York Times.
Wadewitz’s fans on Twitter celebrated the late scholar, calling her "influential," “prolific,” and "brilliant."
The Omaha native earned her PhD from Indiana University in 2011 and was serving as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Digital Learning and Research at Occidental College in Los Angeles at the time of her death. She had also recently accepted a full-time job in the digital humanities department at nearby Whittier College. According to a memorial blog on the website Humanties, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC), of which Wadewitz was a former scholar, upon accepting the job, she said, "I'm extremely happy! I have a job I'm going to love in a city I adore. Life doesn't get better than this."
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However, Wadewitz was probably best known as a longtime Wikipedia editor. She edited her first entry in 2004, and went on to create pages for female writers, scholars, and their works, editing nearly 50,000 posts in total, reports the New York Times. She was also known for her significant contribution of feminist content on Wikipedia. “It is a huge loss for Wikipedia,” Sue Gardner, the executive director of the foundation in San Francisco that runs Wikipedia, told the newspaper. “She may have been our single biggest contributor on these topics — female authors, women’s history.”
Wadewitz, dubbed “Wikiwoman” on the Internet, had become interested in rock climbing two years ago and had joined an indoor climbing class to learn the basics of the sport. However, she was also fueled by a desire to better understand her own students. Wadewitz wrote on her blog last August, “Teachers frequently talk about moments in which they became students again and how much that made them better teachers. For me, there has been no better way to improve my teaching, specifically my teaching in the composition classroom, than to take up a subject at which I am abysmal.”
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Although she jokingly called herself the “worst student in the class,” it soon became a serious hobby, and she filled her Facebook page with photos of herself rock climbing. "For me, one of the most empowering outcomes of my year of climbing has been the new narrative I can tell about myself," she also shared on her blog. "I am no longer 'Adrianne: scholar, book lover, pianist, and Wikipedian'. I am now 'Adrianne: scholar, book lover, pianist, Wikipedian, and rock climber'. This was brought home most vividly to me one day when I was climbing outdoors here in Los Angeles and people on the beach were marveling at those of us climbing. Suddenly I realized, I used to be the person saying how crazy or impossible such feats were and now I was the one doing them. I had radically switched subject positions in a way I did not think possible for myself."
Wadewitz's admirers have set up a memorial on her Wikipedia talk page, where many are sharing memories of the late editor. She is survived by her partner, Peter B. James, and her parents, Nathan R. Wadewitz and Betty M. Wadewitz.