The Collective Biographies of Women is, as the name implies, a collection of sources, links, and portraits of prominent women throughout history. The site includes a section entitled ‘Featured Subjects,’ which is a listing of twenty-one women who have high rankings on what they term the ‘Pop Chart.’ The ‘Pop Chart’ tracks the number of biographies published on these women over time, from 1850-1930. The chart can be sorted by date, total publications, name, or category in which the woman belongs (i.e. literature, queen, nursing, etc.). The creator of the site, Alison Booth, explains in great detail, that rather than being a compilation of solely women writers, this archive is a prosopography, or a collective biography. Its aims are to examine “unexpected models for gender roles” and increase access to the information on previously “forgotten women.” Given this purpose, I believe the site’s strengths lie in the introduction of the site, which is extensive, and in the ‘Featured Subjects.’ There is a great deal of editorial guidance in the introduction to the site; however there is virtually none on any of the other pages.
Each of the featured women has their own page, with a ‘cheat-sheet’ list of historic milestones, a short meta-biography compiled from numerous sources by the creators of the site, links to other digital sources for further inquiry (for example, Charlotte Bronte’s page has links to the Bronte Parsonage Museum), and links to the annotated bibliographies of the site. That being said, the links on the annotated bibliography direct you to WorldCat or Google Books to actually view the titles. There were a number of links that could not even be found by Google Books, which is not the best site for reading in the first place. WorldCat directs you to a library that may hold the specific title, which is helpful, but the site still does not contain any actual information from these primary sources. Since this is not necessarily the intent of the website, this does not present to be a critical issue, but it would be nice to have greater access to the original biographies rather than having to search through hyperlinked bibliographies.
The site is organized well, and presented attractively, which lends to the user-friendliness of the site. The abilities to search or browse give the readers options, but again, since there are not any actual original biographies on the site, it could not be used to search for overly specific details on a particular woman. In this sense, the focus tends to be more on the genre of the biography rather than on the women themselves. I think this site has great potential and will be long-lasting because of its accessibility and its wide listing of bibliographies (Booth notes in the introduction that every biography is listed that was written in English between the dates specified). It is a great start for further research on these women, and thus I think it can be valuable for both serious scholars and those with a less invested interest in these women. I think if the site continues to expand on the ‘Featured Women,’ as the introduction claims it will, the archive will be a perfect introduction to research on these women’s lives.