Ways of seeing the relation between contributor gender and topic distribution.

The Gender of The Masses’ Contributor Network

The Masses is a rich resource for not only politics and literary studies but also women’s issues in the early 20th century. As an American leftist monthly, the magazine sympathized with much of Progressive Era reform, including woman’s suffrage and reproductive politics. However, many of The Masses contributors were men, indicative of the era’s gender politics and the state of socialism as a party. In fact, as our charts below show, men dominated the magazine as regular contributors, which may indicate that the magazine’s articles were skewed to a specific point of view and subject position.

Like the Gephi graphs depicting The Masses contributor networks, the following four pie charts were created using a revised master list of contributors; over one hundred name variants were reconciled to better clarify the extent to which a particular person contributed to the magazine. We then fed that edited list of names into a digital tool, developed at the Center for Digital Scholarship at Brown, that attempts to disambiguate the gender of a person’s first name, based on a list of male and female names provided by the U.S. census. This gender-assignment system is less than perfect, in part because it cannot disambiguate the gender of those many contributors to the magazine whose first names are represented by initials, but we hope our efforts here still reveal some of the general demographic trends of the magazine.

The first two pie charts below represent the gender of The Masses contributors, counting each contributor just once. The first chart covers all contributors to the magazine, while the second represents the smaller set of “regular” contributors who penned three or more works for the Masses (this decreases the number of undetermined names, since authors identified by initials only often had but one or two contributions to the magazine). As you can see, even though the percentage of undetermined names decreases significantly in the second chart, the percentage of men to women contributors remains largely the same: about two to one in either chart. This seems to indicate that the Masses was regularly publishing women among its core contributors, though there were only half as many women in this group as men.

The second pair of pie charts below again represent the gender of Masses contributors, but this time we weighted the contributors according to the number of items they published in the magazine, instead of counting each contributor just once. As you can see, the social landscape of the Masses becomes much clearer: in the first chart, men made two-thirds of all contributions, which was 3.7 times the number of items contributed by women. And when we limit this set of contributors to those with 3 or more contributions, the percentage of women contributions this time decreases, while the rate of male contributions balloons to 4.6 times that of women. This suggests that despite being regular 3+ contributors, these female contributors were responsible for only a fifth of the items published by the magazine’s core contributors.

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