The Collaborative Bibliography of Women in Philosophy is an impressive database of over 10,000 records of works in philosophy by women spanning a period of time from ancient history to the present. The scope is international and includes foreign language materials, and foreign language web sites. (See Hannah Arendt as an example.) The database primarily is a list of publications by women, but a number of entries also include secondary sources, but these are mainly biographical references. The entries are brief, and for the most part are not annotated.
A search for the familiar names in philosophy--Hannah Arendt and Simone de Beauvoir will result in an impressive list of books and materials by them, and a number of entries with annotations from secondary sources. In addition, the entries for Arendt and Emma Goldman include links to other Internet sites via a link labeled "more information." One of the links for Emma Goldman will lead a user to the Emma Goldman papers at the University of California, while other links may a take a user to a faculty list, or original document. It would make the project even more impressive if these links continue to grow in numbers, but also if a more descriptive phrase could be included to identify what type of information the link includes. Currently there are more than 2,000 links from the entries, but many of these are just an address to the contributor's or author's name at another web site.
Searching the database is relatively simple--author, title, annotation, or by all fields. One should select "all fields" due the few numbers of annotations. The system does allow for truncation, both internal and word ending variations. The ability to search by a range of years is particularly useful and one can even search for an entire century if one is trying to locate earlier entries, in the 15th or 16th centuries. A more sophisticated search engine would be helpful in allowing the ability to search not only a range of years, but also by word, presently not an option. When searching for a subject, one is best served by using the "all fields" option. A subject search for a topic such as ecofeminism will provide a respectable list of articles, but it does not provide as many as appear in the "Philosopher's Index" or other available indexes.
Another search option is to browse the list of authors. This is merely a list of all the author entries. In order to locate the author, one has to return to the main page with the search engine. It would be helpful to have links to the pages with the information, rather than having to return to the search engine page to enter the author's name. The same criticism applies to the page with the contributor's names. Some of the contributors throughout the bibliography have links to more information, and these links could be connected from the page listing the contributors.
One criticism of this database would be the need for consistency in providing certain data about the women included. It would be helpful if entries consistently included a brief statement as to the birth and death dates, and possibly a line to further identify them--area of philosophy and/or nationality. Numerous entries cite Ethel M. Kersey's work "Women Philosopher's : A Bio-Critical Source Book." It would be helpful, since they appear in Kersey's work, to include the same brief one-line statement identifying who they are and when they lived. Another question is why some entries include extensive annotations, and other's do not. For example, the entry for Simone De Beauvoir includes an extensive excerpt from Ethel M. Kersey's work "Women Philosopher's: A Bio-Critical Source Book." However, Harriet Martineau, another major figure also included in Kersey's work, only has mention of her birth and death years. As a collaborative effort, it is understandable that there will be some difference among entries, but it is hoped that over time these inconsistencies can be corrected.
The Collaborative Bibliography is an ongoing project, and is intended to be continually updated, but it is to be published in a book form by the end of 1996. As a collaborative project, the more than one hundred contributors have done an impressive job of collecting resources by women philosophers. As a catalog of published materials by women in philosophy, it is a valuable starting point for students interested in identifying women philosophers. The ability to locate women authors in a particular time period is also very helpful. However, it is a starting point, and other sources for critical reviews or subject oriented materials should be consulted.
DeWitt Wallace Library
Sept. 27, 1996