Throughout Women’s History Month, I celebrated inspirational women from history. Their brave and courageous stories about their struggles and accomplishments helped shaped who I am today. On this final day of Women’s History Month, I celebrate the women who helped me. They pushed me ahead, helped me earn my way in the world, challenged me to make the world a better place, and provided insight during challenges.
I’ve been wondering about the historical interpretation of the early days of the internet. Whose histories will be recorded and whose histories, accomplishments and contributions will be left out.
I’m familiar with women being written out of history, especially in the dramatic misrepresentation of art history. I was a student at Albertus Magnus College, where I earned my BFA. Katherine Walker taught an incredible course on Women in Art History, which opened my mind to the possibilities. In the previous art history course, I had to study H.W. Janson’s massive book on History of Art, which was mandatory reading for all art majors. Janson deliberately left out all the women artists and told only half of the story of art history. Many years later, he was discredited as a historian. Sadly, Janson is not the first historian to deliberately exclude women. There were and will be others.
During the early years of digital, technology, and the internet, I never thought about my own history or my colleagues’ history and the significant contributions we made. I realize now that our history would be forgotten and worse scrubbed. Future generations will not know us or learn about our experiences and accomplishments from 1980-1999. Aliza Sherman and I started the Women’s Internet History Project in 2010 to document and preserve our legacies and provide a means of sharing our stories. We invited many friends and colleagues to reconnect, share their stories and pass down their knowledge. Our stories can be found on the Women’s Internet History Project.
We had a reunion on Saturday, March 20, 2021, via Zoom. Many of us have not connected since our last reunion ten years ago. Some of us met each other for the first time. It was heartwarming to see Aliza Sherman, Courtney Pulitzer, kHyal, Laura Berland, Sandra Lynn, and Adrienne Matt. Some of our board advisors, Mary Boone and Gloria Feldt attended and added to our profound conversations. We rekindled, shared our experiences, talked about the challenges we faced then and now. Revealed all the contributions we made over the past thirty-plus years. These women changed and shaped my life and were there for me during the most challenging of times. We share the stories of our first-time use of digital and getting on the internet. We laughed about the early days of writing HTML code to make an image appear on a page. Yeah, HARDING code pages! We founded, owned, and led digital companies many of us had no formal business or marketing experience. We developed many of the very first corporate and brand websites. Created the first online games, apps, and experiences. Taught and encouraged our community to learn and use this new form of communication and technology. Marveled at the continuous transformation of the internet. We cried when we learn of the passing of friends. I shared that I am working on our book to document our contributions for future generations – so that our history is not forgotten.
Women’s Internet History Project has a long way to go to become the resource Aliza and I envisioned. We definitely could use help organizing the site to fit our constituents’ needs and to inspire the younger generations of women wanting to get into the industry.
Join us in helping to build this important historical record. The Women’s Internet History Project will now meet monthly.
Aliza Sherman, Brenda Scott, Cecilia Pagkalinawan, Courtney Pulitzer, Danielle Cyr, Dara Tyson, Dina Kaplan, Eleanor Haas, Gabrielle Shannon, kHyal, Laura Rich, Lori Schwab, Lydia Kidwell Sugarman, Margaret Bates, Marina Zurkow, Stacy Horn, Suzanne Romanick Lainson, there are many others stories the project needs to document.
About Women’s Internet History Project
Women’s Internet History Project is dedicated to preserving the stories and contributions of women who were the pioneers of the early internet days 1980-1999. This project provides the biographies, contributions, experiences, and connections shared by women who were involved with the internet and digital.
Mission: The premise of this project is to provide a platform to tell our stories, connect with one another, and celebrate the accomplishments of women in every aspect of the Internet evolution.
Special thanks to our advisory board Elaine Paque, Francine Hardaway, Gloria Feldt, Lisa Napoli, Mary Boone, Renee Edelman.