The Forgotten Citations and the Third-Wave Feminist and Scholar who Really Wrote Them

*Important edit–this problem has had a resolution.  Please see my blog post from 4 November for details.  Thank you everyone!

I had a fun blog post prepared about following a map where X marked the spot and finding a lost tomb.  I’ll still post it, next week.  Today, I’d like to talk about Margaret Murray again.

As you know, I wrote a biography of her.  I’m extremely proud of it.  I spent about 7 years total working on it, not counting all of the work that comes after the book is published.  It was my doctoral dissertation and I spent 3 years revising it into a book.  I traveled, I searched through archives, many times spending 2 weeks in an archive to find but 1 or 2 mentions of her.  I dealt with the dearth of information–archival and published–about Murray.  My book is the first book-length work on her since her own autobiography. While I did not cover some parts of her life, such as her trip to Finland and Russia to do a lecture series or detail her retirement years, I spend 239 pages discussing everything from her childhood, to her fieldwork in Egypt and Malta, to her work on diffusionism, her mummy unwrapping, and so much more.  Needless to say, Murray is a fascinating individual with so many facets to her life and career.  Naturally, people want to know about her.  This is especially true of witchcraft scholars and enthusiasts, as well as people who identify their belief system as Wiccan.

I won’t write about her witchcraft work in depth here, because you can read my book, chapter 7.   You can also read Caroline Oates and Juliette Wood’s A Coven of Scholars: Margaret Murray and Her Working Methods, if you can find a copy.  It is an important booklet, that should have been a journal article or bound book, published by the Folklore Society in 1998.  I got my copy from Caroline Oates when we met in London 5 years ago, so good luck getting yours.  There are a few articles in Folklore that do discuss Murray’s witchcraft, but very few.  Or, you can  check out this article: “The Forgotten Egyptologist and First Wave Feminist Who Invented Wicca.

In and of itself, the article is quite good.  But, to be honest, it is good because most of the work was done by me.  I saw the article, posted by a fellow Egyptologist on facebook.  I read it, excited to learn more about Murray’s work.  Maybe there was something in there that I could learn about her witchcraft studies.  As I read, I realized that I wasn’t learning anything new.  In fact, I was reading my own words, spit back at me, in an online article that was and is being enjoyed by thousands of people.  Some of my own phrases, and most definitely my unique analysis of Murray’s life and career, were there for thousands to see.  Usually, this makes me very happy.  Murray is still little-known outside of a small group of historians and Egyptologists even though she is central to the discipline.  I got to the end of the article and realized there were NO citations.  Not one.  I did a ctrl+F to search for my name, thinking I must have missed where I was mentioned in the article as Murray’s biographer and owner of many of the ideas therein.  Nothing.

Mind you, this was all happening at the beginning of what would be the Kansas City Royals’ World Series winning game.  But the first 8 1/2 innings were pretty dull, so I had some energy to devote to rectifying the situation.  I tweeted at the author, Sarah Waldron (@Sarah__Waldron).

First tweet to @Sarah__Waldron

First tweet to @Sarah__Waldron

I received this response, and you can read the continuing conversation just below it:

Author's response and part of mine.

Author’s response and part of mine.

Did I mention–there aren’t multiple academic essays about her?  Oh, well, here:

In which I let her know the truth and ask for credit.

In which I let her know the truth and ask for credit.

I haven’t, as of 8:30am CST, gotten a response from her.  I’d like to know about these other articles she found.  Who wrote those?  If there are multiple articles, why didn’t I find them in 7 years of searching?  Sarah Waldron has some explaining, and documenting, to do.

I also emailed the Editors of the Broadly section of Vice.com.  Their email is, according to the website: Broadly.Editor@Vice.com.  I asked them to rectify the situation, simply by getting their author to give me credit for the stuff that I wrote (which was much of the biographical information and more).  I haven’t heard from them yet.

Thousands of people are reading this article, and a vast majority of them don’t know the Margaret Murray I know, the one I wrote about.  And many never will because Waldron did not cite anything.  She has denied interested people the knowledge of more scholarship about Murray–something Murray herself would not like.  I am simply asking for credit where credit is due.  I will mention the dreaded “P” word here, once and once only: Plagiarism is not tolerated in my classroom and should not be tolerated by the editors, authors, or readers of Vice.

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16 Responses to The Forgotten Citations and the Third-Wave Feminist and Scholar who Really Wrote Them

  1. Zing says:

    Hi Kate, I’m the UK editor of Broadly. Please drop me an email with your concerns at zing dot tsjeng at broadly dot com, as your previous email did not seem to have gone through.

  2. Historiann says:

    Dear Kate–this sounds like a nightmare. Would you please update this post with any further information or response you get from Broadly and/or Vice? I am considering writing a post on this myself to amplify your concerns here.

    • Kathleen Sheppard says:

      I will update in a longer post, but I have heard from Vice and was requested to send along my documentation. Not time I had to spend today, but I hope it will be worth it. Thank you, Historiann!

  3. Contingent Cassandra says:

    I’m glad you’re pressing this point, and hope you get the credit you deserve. As a scholar of another little-known figure and a composition teacher, I point out to my students that biographical information is not, as many sources claim, automatically “common knowledge” — not if someone had to go dig in the primary sources to establish such basic information as birth, death, and marriage dates, publications (e.g. whether several pseudonyms belong to the same author), basic life activities, etc. If the available biographical information is scanty, contradictory, or just plain wrong, and only one person (or even two or three people) have taken the time to put even pieces of it together into a coherent package, let alone offer some interpretation as to its meaning/significance, then it needs to be cited.

    P.S. In case you’re wondering where in the world I wandered in from, the answer is historiann’s retweet. And now I’m intrigued, and looking forward to reading more.

    • Kathleen Sheppard says:

      Thank you! I am glad you wandered over and I wonder who your little-known figure is. I have an illness in seeking these figures out–which is partly how I know I’m the only one who wrote something about Murray. A blessing and a curse.

      • Well, that would “out” me, for obvious reasons, but to pick a few well-known examples of what we call “recovery work” from my field (American lit., especially women writers):

        –It’s now well-known that Louisa May Alcott wrote thrillers under various (if I’m remembering correctly) pseudonyms, but it took the work of several scholars to locate, edit, and republish those works.

        –Jean Fagan Yellin established that _Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl_ is a nonfiction account written by Harriet Jacobs, not a novel written by her editor, Lydia Maria Child

        –Henry Louis Gates uncovered basic information about the author of _Our Nig_, and P. Gabrielle Foreman significantly extended (and also in some cases corrected) that information.

        –Gates did similar early work on the origins/authorship of _The Bondwoman’s Narrative_, and a number of scholars, most recently Gregg Hecimovich, are working on extending it (and there may still be competing theories about various aspects of that manuscript left when the dust from the early critical/historical work settles).

        All of the above work is directed at establishing what many might consider a basic “fact” about a text — who wrote it? — and/or author — what did (s)he write? — and all would require citation for some time after the publication of those basic facts (and, even after those facts are well-established as common knowledge by being mentioned in multiple publications, a careful writer would still nod toward the person/people who did the spadework to bring them to light.) Or at least that’s my (admittedly-biased) take.

      • Kathleen Sheppard says:

        I don’t want to out you! Thank you for sharing these extremely important examples.

  4. Regina says:

    I’d love to know the results of this. Plagiarism is not okay!

  5. harngroup says:

    Reblogged this on HARN Weblog and commented:
    Important points being made here . . .

  6. Rosalind Janssen says:

    Dear Kate,
    I am very sorry this has happened to you. All I can say is that it is happening more and more in academia. It might be worth checking if permission has been granted for the illustrations as credited.
    best wishes,
    Rosalind

    • Kathleen Sheppard says:

      Dearest Rosalind, Thank you! Thankfully, the author and the editor of the site are working with me. I don’t think she did it on purpose–but that’s the kind we really need to look out for.
      Thank you,
      Kate

  7. Pingback: Social media: an irritant as well as balm for most intellectual property problems? | Historiann

  8. Pingback: What a week . . . | HARN Weblog

  9. Pingback: Using Someone Else’s Ideas and Thoughts Without Citation…Isn’t Right

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