Women, For Pity's Sake, Don't Compute

Warning: if you’re a miserable misogynist, stop reading now, as this post contains information suggesting that women might not actually be as stupid as you seem to think we are.

Judith’s recent post about women in tech drew a comment about Grace Hopper, a woman who was involved in the development of COBOL (I can barely type “COBOL” without shuddering). This, in turn, led me to comment about Ada Lovelace, who is credited with being the first computer programmer. It all made me think about the role that women have played in the development of computing as we know it today. With that in mind, here are a few more notable women who’ve paved the way for all of us to enjoy technology.

The ENIAC Programmers
Their story is incredibly fascinating. Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Jean Jennings Bartik, Frances Snyder Holberton, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Frances Bilas Spence and Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum were chosen out of 80 programmers to physically program switches, digits, and cable trays in order to determine ballistics trajectories for the US Army in the 1940s. The ENIAC Computer soon became the world’s first stored program computer, giving these six women the distinction of being the only programmers to have ever programmed it on the machine level.

Alexandra Illmer Forsythe
Credited with writing the first computer science textbook in 1969, she was also a noted computer science instructor at several universities, including Stanford University.

Evelyn Boyd Granville
One of the first African-American women to earn a doctorate in mathematics in the US, Granville worked on the computing behind the first US manned missions into space and to the moon.

Erna Schneider Hoover
While working at Bell Laboratories, Hoover developed a computerized switching system for telephone traffic, replacing the hard-wired system. She was awarded one of the first software patents for this achievement, and became Bell Lab’s first female supervisor of a technical department.

So, you see, not all women are destined to make tea and just look pretty. I would like to say that Lisa HAS, in fact, made tea for me and it was lovely. I guess some of us can do it all.