with the benefit of feedback from many kind readers, I have, at long last, a complete book proposal. Comments, critique, and push back more than welcome, they are actively sought!



This book adapts altmetrics, a born-digital concept that seeks to measure influence beyond traditional indicators, for scholarly research. Within academia, altmetrics have been used to move beyond citation counts to propose alternative means of identifying the impact of an academic’s work. Historical altmetrics offers alternatives for understanding and contextualizing the importance of individuals, texts, and specific events in the past. This new method for digital humanities research relies on a three-step process: creating custom corpora, using multiple computational methods for analysis, and combining distant and close readings.

Historical Altmetrics has three goals: to craft a narrative that is intelligible to scholars who are not engaged in digital humanities, to illustrate how researchers without significant technical skills or outside assistance can conduct digital humanities research, and to model a scholarly argument based on computational evidence. Historical altmetrics are explained and explored through a compelling case study, the standard historiography of 1970s feminism. As Clare Hemmings’ work shows, academic discourse over the past fifty years has produced clear narratives of temporally marked feminisms.[i] Furthermore, the historiography of 1970s feminism is still dominated by a few “big books,” which makes for clear-cut examples for analysis. 1970s feminism also offers a valuable case study in non-canonical digital humanities research.

In order to make interventions in the field of digital humanities and in the narrative of 1970s feminism, this book is framed around four questions common to all inquiry into the past: Why did events occur? What role did ideas play? Who was important? When did things change? As each chapter answers a question, I also reassess a moment in the standard narrative of 1970s feminism, offer a computational analysis of sources, and provide a historical interpretation of the results. As a result, this book not only demonstrates a new method but also offers a revised history of 1970s feminism.

Chapter Outline

Introduction: This overview proposes the idea of historical altmetrics as a method for studying various forms of influence in the past, ranging from individual theorists and activists to conferences and publications. It provides the rationale for the three-step process for measuring historical altmetrics. This begins with the necessity for more than a digital archive. Researchers must carefully consider the digitized sources to be used to answer their specific queries about the past. The creation of a representative balanced corpus of machine-readable sources is explored using the nine customized corpora that are the foundation of this book as an example.

Next, as part of historical altmetrics, I suggest that scholars will quite frequently need to combine multiple modes of computational analysis. A nontechnical overview is offered of the four types of tools utilized in this book. The reader is introduced to the use of natural language processing software for entity recognition, which automates the identification of names, geographical locations, dates, and organizations in texts. A second set of tools, from corpus linguistics, offers both a workflow to follow and software that calculates relationships among words in texts and across bodies of texts and facilitates qualitative text analysis through various displays of the quantitative results. Thirdly, network analysis calculates various ties between people, groups or institutions which is used to identify different kinds of relationships, from central influencers, who have many important connections, to bridge people who link disparate groups. Finally, visualizations of quantified results, using Palladio and RawGraphs, are used to gain a greater understanding of changes over time, place, and space.

The third and final step in historical altmetrics combines various forms of reading the texts, moving from the results of this computational analysis, which point to where to do close readings of particular texts, that then generates more questions for computational analysis. Only when repeated and combined does the method of reading yield evidence that can be used to craft a scholarly argument.

The introduction closes with an outline of the subsequent chapters that give the reader adequate signposts to either follow the book in a linear fashion or to jump to the historical question or digital tool that interests them most.

Chapter one asks why did events occur? The case study revolves around Sara Evans’ argument about the origins of the women’s liberation movement in the United States. Since its publication in 1979, her Personal Politics: The Origins of Women’s Liberation in Civil Rights and The New Left has become the accepted account of a causal history that places a single document, “A Kind of Memo” by Casey Hayden and Mary King, written in 1965 as the origin of 1970s feminism.[ii] This chapter seeks to verify this hypothesis by digitally analyzing key texts produced by women’s liberation activists in the earliest years of the movement to determine whom they referenced most and which texts were discussed most frequently. Because activist periodicals seldom hewed to scholarly practices of footnotes or bibliographies, documenting influence through citations simply does not work. However, entity recognition, a form of natural language processing that locates people’s names, offers a way to compile a list of frequently mentioned individuals who can then be cross-checked in the text for their role in the movement. These results show Hayden and King were not frequently mentioned in the text analyzed. Even more importantly these results reveal that in these earliest years no single author dominates across the periodicals suggesting that causation cannot be linked to a single infuence. Instead, five historical subjects who were more frequently mentioned than Hayden and King in periodicals c 1968 -1969, are traced through mass-market anthologies published in 1970 and 1971, which exposed a wider audience to the women’s movement. The fate of these figures is followed into historical monographs published between 1975 and 2005 to illustrate that scholars themselves are largely responsible for the notion of a single text causing 1970s feminism to emerge. In the process, they have narrowed down the number of early feminist authors and speakers who were frequently written about. The revised narrative that ends the chapter highlights the role of other white women in the south than Hayden and King, and emphasizes the centrality of black women to the origins of 1970s feminism.

The query at the heart of chapter two is what role did ideas play? The case study seeks to verify the historical model established by Freeman, Hole and Levine, Carden, and Yates that holds that clearly identifiable ideologies existed within 1970s feminism. This model led to the widely accepted thesis that ideologies divided the women’s movement as explored in Alice Echols’ Daring to Be Bad. [iii] Echols’ discussion of cultural feminism, a label adopted by virtually no historical actor, has been permanently incorporated into taxonomies of feminism. The chapter uses corpus analysis software to investigate whether such clear-cut divisions can be substantiated. Corpus linguistics software that detects relationships between words in texts is used to produce three measurements: keyword analysis indicates which words appeared more in one text than in a comparison text, collocation shows words that frequently appear together, and semantic tagging categorizes the relative frequency of words that are grouped together by their similar meanings. The process is applied to three bodies of texts, feminist periodicals, feminist bestsellers, and scholarly overviews of feminist thought. Results of this analysis suggest that descriptions of “wings” or “branches” of the women’s movement have been overly emphasized in academic analyses of 1970s feminism. The chapter ends with a discussion of representative texts identified, either by the author or in subsequent analysis, as aligned with a certain school of feminist thought to illustrate how porous the boundaries between feminist ideologies were during the 1970s. This revised account places greater emphasis on activist writings that while once influential, have fallen out of favor due to an overly deterministic model of feminist ideologies.

Chapter 3 attempts to answer the question who was important? The case study examines participants in feminist conferences during the mid to late 1970s. While the other chapters in this book target a historiographical conclusion, this chapter aims at an absence. As Evelynn Hammond has noted, feminist conferences were “one of the most important sites of the articulation and enactment of feminism in the United States.” [iv] Nancy K Miller has called for “entire conference narratives: a potential academic subgenre.” This chapter employs social network analysis to analyze conferences as a crucial locale for both generating feminist theory and as a liminal location that transcended the increasing divide between activist and academic thinkers. Archival copies of conference programs for The Scholar and the Feminist, The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, and the National Women’s Studies Association meetings from the 1970s and 1980s form a dataset for this analysis. Results suggest that feminist conferences were precursors to today’s knowledge communities in that they brought together not only academics authors, who have left a measurable presence in texts, but also a wide range of individuals who enabled the development of feminist thought. The concluding narrative picks up where the last chapter left off, arguing that the interplay among feminists inside and outside of academia as feminist thought developed has been ignored resulting in too few women receiving credit for their contributions. This account re-centers activists, conference organizers, grants officers, publishers, editors, and librarians as central to the praxis of feminist theorizing.

The final chapter pulls the prior three together to ask when did things change? The question is addressed through the case study of the 1982 Scholar and The Feminist Towards a Politics of Sexuality, which has been blamed for ending second wave feminism by launching the “sex wars,” a series of debates around prostitution, pornography, and sadomasochism. This issue of periodization in history is an important, yet neglected topic. As one scholar has noted, “While familiar periodizing categories have been declared inappropriate for the history of women, they have not usually been replaced by alternative schemas.”[v] This chapter questions the very notion that the sex wars was a pivotal date in the US women’s movement. It builds on Audre Lorde’s perspicacious observation that the sex wars were “perhaps being used to draw attention and energies away from other more pressing and immediate life-threatening issues facing us as women” to compare activists’ writing before and after 1982. This chapter relies on all the digital tools of the preceding chapters, entity recognition, corpus analysis, and network analysis, to draw evidence from activist periodicals and academic feminist journals to explore how content changed before and after 1982. The texts are divided into historical sub-corpora for diachronic comparison. A corpus analysis workflow that plots the frequencies of people, organizations, and terms in each sub-corpus measures how their presence changed over time. The iterative process of moving from these results to reading through the concordance facilitates analysis of the context of the identified shifts. The changes found do not align with people, groups, or concepts associated with the Sex Wars. However, both entity recognition, semantic analysis, and network analysis illustrate the process by which, after 1982, scholarly works about the women’s movement began to systemically exclude women who were considered to be on the “anti-sex” or “anti-pornography” side of the Sex Wars.


Epilogue Towards Feminism’s Digital Humanities Future is a brief epilogue, which discusses some of the challenges inherent in adopting the method proposed in this book. Here I address the trials of corpus creation, discuss the limitations of the lone digital humanities researcher, and address ethical issues raised by writing digital histories of the recent past.


This book sits at the intersection of the digital humanities and recent reassessments of the print culture of modern feminism. There are three anticipated audiences. Scholars and graduate students in digital humanities will be interested in the proposed method and the model of how to make a scholarly argument based on computational analysis of texts. However, it will be of equal interest to an interdisciplinary audience in women’s and gender studies and African American studies as it offers a thoroughgoing revision of the standard account of contemporary feminist theory. Finally, because the questions at the heart of this book are historical, it will be of interest to practitioners in that discipline as well.

 Relevant Literature

Historical Altmetrics joins other recent feminist books in the digital humanities including Losh and Wernimont’s Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and the Digital Humanities and as McPherson’s Feminist in a Software Lab: Difference + Design, which insists that feminism’s attentiveness to difference should be at the heart of digital humanities.[vi] Alongside Wernimont’s Numbered Lives: Life and Death in Quantum Media I also ask “who counts, in what ways, and why” and follow Risam’s New Digital Worlds in questioning how thinking about race, gender, sexuality, disability, and nation transforms our understanding of knowledge production in the digital age.[vii] Along with the authors of Data Feminism, this book ponders what happens when we reduced lived human experience to categories on a spreadsheet.[viii]

Specifically, Historical Altmetrics interrogates how digital technologies have changed scholarly practices and addresses questions about the ethics of researching and writing in a search engine optimized milieu. Because these questions are closely aligned with those of archival studies, Historical Altmetrics draws on recent scholarship in that field, including Archive Everything: Mapping the Everyday, which grapples with the archival transmission of memory and The Politics of Mass Digitization.[ix]

However, this book remains in dialogue with many key texts in the digital humanities, even as it attempts to expand the field both methodologically and topically. Inspired by Earhart’s Traces of the Old, Uses of the New: The Emergence of Digital Literary Studies, Historical Altmetrics advances a set of disciplinary-specific claims for digital humanities, in this case, historical ones.[x] It follows Emerson’s Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound, in considering how reading historical sources differently alters the relationship between past and present.[xi] Akin to Ramsay’s Reading Machines, this book situates the computational analysis of texts within the broader context of the humanities, asking why digital humanities methods have not infiltrated the core activity of history, interpretation of the past.[xii] Like Jockers’ Macroanalysis, Historical Altmetrics asks big questions, but those endemic to the practice of the historian rather than the literary scholar.[xiii]

Influenced by Alan Liu’s Friending the Past, which considers the philosophical basis of history from the perspective of the digital age, Historical Altmetrics ask how do we remember feminism, which feminists are considered worthy of commemoration, and what do memories of feminism mean to us today?[xiv] Indeed, this is as much a content-driven monograph about feminism as it is an example of digital humanities scholarship and thus Historical Altmetrics adds to our understanding of feminist print cultures. Recent monographs that have explored various aspects of the textual world of 1970s feminism include The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability and The Virago Story: Assessing the Impact of a Feminist Publishing Phenomenon.[xv]  My study of feminist periodicals in the 1970s and 1980s slots chronologically in between studies of earlier eras, including Magazine Movements: Women’s Culture, Feminisms And Media Form and Time and Tide: The Feminist and Cultural Politics of a Modern Magazine, and those that pick up in the twenty-first century like Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism and Making Feminist Media: Third-Wave Magazines on the Cusp of the Digital Age.[xvi]

While many fine books have a partial focus on feminist print activism of the 1970s and 19780s, including Race And Ethnicity In The Women’s Movement In England, 1968–1993, Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed An Era, and Chicana Power, Liberation in Print: Feminist Periodicals and Social Movement Identity is a rare monograph that focuses solely on 1970s movement periodicals. [xvii] It uses the organizing metaphor of networks but does not apply social network analysis tools.

Indeed, this book challenges traditional scholars to reconsider doing research digitally. This emphasis aligns it with works within the digital humanities, particularly from the field of book study, that have also sought to reach reluctant digital humanists to convince them that “lacking technical skills is not a reason not to participate.”[xviii] It builds on the minimal computing movement and calls for micro DH to expand what I termed in 2014 a “party of one” approach to doing digital humanities work to illustrate the digital humanities methodologies are well within the reach of the individual researcher. As such it offers a counterpoint to the few existing monographs in digital history, which are coauthored including Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope and Homesteading the Plains: Toward a New History.[xix]

The manuscript is anticipated to be approximately 250 pages.

Tables and figures will be incorporated sparingly. I do not anticipate any reproduction fees. The schedule for completion is one year to eighteen months depending on reviewers requests for additional data analysis.




[i] Clare Hemmings, Why Stories Matter: The Political Grammar of Feminist Theory (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).

[ii] Sara Margaret Evans, Personal Politics: The Roots of Women’s Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left (Vintage Books, 1979).

[iii] Alice Echols, Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989).

[iv] Evelynn M Hammond, “When the Margin Is the Center: African American Feminism(s) and ‘Difference,’” in Transitions, Environments, Translations: Feminisms in International Politics, ed. Cora Kaplan, Joan Wallach Scott, and Debra Keates (New York: Psychology Press, 1997), 295–309.

[v] Alexandra Shepard and Garthine Walker, “Gender and Change: Agency, Chronology and Periodisation,” Gender & History 20, no. 3 (2008): 454.

[vi] Elizabeth Losh and Jacqueline Wernimont, eds., Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and the Digital Humanities (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019); Tara McPherson, Feminist in a Software Lab: Difference + Design (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).

[vii] Roopika Risam, New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Humanities in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy (Chicago, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2018).

[viii] Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein, “Data Feminism · MIT Press Open,” MIT Press Open, accessed March 5, 2019, https://bookbook.pubpub.org/data-feminism.

[ix] Gabriella Giannachi, Archive Everything: Mapping the Everyday, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2016); Nanna Bonde Thylstrup, The Politics of Mass Digitization (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2019).

[x] Amy E. Earhart, Traces of the Old, Uses of the New: The Emergence of Digital Literary Studies (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015).

[xi] Lori Emerson, Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound (Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press, 2014).

[xii] Stephen Ramsay, Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism (Champaign, IL.: University of Illinois Press, 2011).

[xiii] Matthew L. Jockers, Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History (Champaign, IL.: University of Illinois Press, 2013).

[xiv] Alan Liu, Friending the Past: The Sense of History in the Digital Age, First edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018).

[xv] Kristen Hogan, The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability (Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2016); Catherine Riley, The Virago Story: Assessing the Impact of a Feminist Publishing Phenomenon (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2018).

[xvi] Laurel Forster, Magazine Movements: Women’s Culture, Feminisms and Media Form (New York and London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), https://www.amazon.com/Magazine-Movements-Womens-Culture-Feminisms/dp/1441177450; Catherine Clay, Time and Tide: The Feminist and Cultural Politics of a Modern Magazine (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018); Alison Piepmeier, Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism (New York: NYU Press, 2009); Elizabeth Groeneveld, Making Feminist Media: Third-Wave Magazines on the Cusp of the Digital Age (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2016).

[xvii] Natalie Thomlinson, Race, Ethnicity and the Women’s Movement in England, 1968-1993 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016); Ashley D. Farmer, Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era (Chapel Hill, N.C: University of North Carolina Press Books, 2017); Maylei Blackwell, ¡Chicana Power!: Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement (University of Texas Press, 2011); Agatha Beins, Liberation in Print: Feminist Periodicals and Social Movement Identity (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2017).

[xviii] Claire Battershill et al., Scholarly Adventures in Digital Humanities: Making The Modernist Archives Publishing Project (Springer, 2017), 9.

[xix] Shawn Graham, Ian Milligan, and Scott Weingart, Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope (London: Imperial College Press, 2015); Richard Edwards, Jacob K. Friefeld, and Rebecca S. Wingo, Homesteading the Plains: Toward a New History (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2017).