Here is the fourth installment in our new series featuring stories from people who have helped shaped the Women Writers Project. Kyle Wholey, Outreach Coordinator, interviewed WWP alumna Susie Hansley (Encoder) about her time at the WWP.
How did you get involved with the WWP?
There was a job ad posted somewhere for encoders, and I applied. This was way back in my first year of graduate school (1992-1993). At that time, the WWP was in the basement of the Grad Center building, and I was living in that building my first year. That’s also where the GCB (Grad Center Bar) was and I believe still is. I don’t believe grad students live in that building anymore, however.
Do you have any stories or particularly memorable anecdotes from your time here that you’d like to share?
I remember how exciting and fun it was working with people like Maria Fish, Julia Flanders, Carole Mah, and Allen Renear. Maria worked as an administrative assistant for WWP and ended up becoming my 2nd-year roommate. Julia, a fellow English Ph.D. candidate, was our fearless leader. Carole was our computing maven. It was an exciting time as we tried to figure out best practices for encoding.
What did the digital humanities and/or the recovery of women’s writing look like when you were working with the project?
At that point, there was no internet and I had never heard of HTML. SGML was exciting because you could define your documents and tag so many different aspects of a document. Because we were working on old manuscripts that included print features that were not part of the body of the text, we had to figure out how those would be coded without making them part of the text structure. We were often having conversations about what bits needed to be encoded, the philosophies of why/how we should do one thing versus another, and the practicalities of what needed to be encoded (e.g., for future searching, for generating a document to appear how it looked originally, for generating a document that could show either the “s” with the serif that looks like an “f” in the text, or that could convert that to a modern “s,” etc.)
What are you doing now?
I work as a contracts and proposals writer/solutions architect with Scantron’s Assessment Services division (certification and license examination development and delivery services).
Are there any ways that your involvement with the WWP has impacted your personal or professional experiences?
Definitely! It aided me in later work as a technical support specialist where HTML knowledge was required, and generally helped me understand how programming rules and syntax matter.