Archive for March, 2012

Like to Read? Help NWHM Create Our Online Book List

March 15th, 2012

We’d like your feedback! NWHM is starting a book list on our website and we need your help. Do you have recommendations for empowering and enlightening books about women? Your suggestions can range from children’s books to adult books, fiction to non-fiction. Send recommendations to

Celebrating Computing Women Part IV

March 15th, 2012

Here is our fourth blog post in a series about outstanding women in the history of computing, provided by our volunteer blogger, Heather Elizabeth Ross.

Erna Schneider Hoover (1926- )

Erna Schneider Hoover earned a Ph.D in the Philosophy and Foundations of Mathematics from Yale. Hoover began work as a researcher at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey in 1954. While at Bell, she created a computerized telephone switching system utilizing a computer to monitor incoming calls. The computer automatically adjusted a call’s acceptance rate, which helped eliminate overloading problems. The principles behind Hoover’s system are still used today. She was issued one of the first software patents and became the first female supervisor of a technical department at Bell.


Frances Allen (1932-   )

Frances Allen earned a B.S. degree in Mathematics in 1954 from the New York State College for Teachers and a Mathematics in 1957 (University of Michigan). She  did groundbreaking work  in the areas of compilers, code optimization and parallelization. Allen was a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Association for Computing Machinery and the Computer History Museum.

She did pioneering work at IBM and became the first IBM fellow in 1989. She worked for IBM for 45 years. Allen also had a hand in intelligence work with programming languages and security codes for the National Security Administration. She was inducted into the WITI Hall of Fame in 1997and won the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award in 2002. Allen was the first woman to win the Turing Award (the“Nobel Prize of computing”) in 2006.

Why Women’s History?

March 14th, 2012

This blog post was published on the National Constitution Center’s blog:

Posted 3 hours, 30 minutes ago.

 By Sydnee Winston


 Photo: Courtesy Gerda Lerner.
Now that women’s history month has reached its third week-and blogs, news programs and classrooms nationwide have been abuzz with fascinating factoids about America’s historic women-what will happen to our zest for women’s history once the month comes to an end?

 Once the remaining two weeks of women’s history month come and go, and spring melts into summer, will our interest and value of our nation’s historic women melt away as well? Or will we continue our efforts to preserve and integrate them and their experiences, into the larger narrative of our American story?

After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the field of women’s history itself was scoffed at as insignificant. In fact, it was only about three decades ago that women’s history began to solidify as an academic field and, since its foundation, the field has reshaped and redefined standard US history in many ways.

  Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating Computing Women, Part III

March 14th, 2012

Today we continue our series on the programming pioneers of American women’s history, thanks to Heather Elizabeth Ross.

Jean E. Sammet (1928- )

Jean E. Sammet was one of the first women to be awarded a Ph.D. in Computer Science (1968, Stanford). She holds a B.A. in Mathematics from Mount Holyoke College (1948) and a M.A. in Mathematics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1949). Sammet joined IBM in 1961 and while there, initiated the concept of and developed FORMAC, the first widely-used computer language forthe symbolic manipulation of mathematical formulas. She worked at IBM for 27years, and was a member of the subcommittee that created COBOL. Sammet was also the President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) from 1974-1976 and an ACM Fellow in 1994. She received the Lovelace Award in 1989.


Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (1906 – 1992)

Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was one of the first female computer programmers, the first woman to graduate from Yale with a Ph.D in mathematics, and the first woman to reach the rank of Admiral in the U.S. Navy. In addition to inventing the first computer compiler in1952, Admiral Hopper developed COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language).  She was instrumental in the creation of FLOW-MATIC, the language used by the UNIVAC I and UNIVAC II computers. She is credited with popularizing the terms “bug” and “debugging” after she had to remove a moth from the inside of a computer. In addition, it was Admiral Hopper who first said, “It is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” The USS Hopper (DDG-70) guided missile destroyer is named in her honor. On January 7, 1992, Rear Admiral Hopper was buried with full naval honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Celebrating Computing Women, Part II

March 13th, 2012

Here is the second installment of biographies about female computer pioneers by volunteer blogger, Heather Elizabeth Ross.

Betty Holberton(1917 – 2001)

Betty Holberton, born Frances Elizabeth Snyder, attended the University of Pennsylvania. On her first day of classes, she was reportedly told by a professor to quit wasting her time attempting a mathematics degree and stay home and raise children. Holberton instead switched her major to journalism. Holberton was later hired by the Moore School of Engineering to be one of the “computors” to work on ENIAC, the world’s first electronic digital computer. She became the Chief of the Programming Research Branch of the Applied Mathematics Laboratory at the David Taylor Model Basin in 1959. While there, she helped to develop UNIVAC, the first commercial mainframe computer, wrote the first generative programming system (SORT/MERGE), and the first statistical analysis package for the 1950 U.S. Census. Holberton worked with John Mauchly to develop the C-10 instructions for BINAC, considered one of the origins of modern programming languages. She then worked with Admiral Grace Murray Hopper to develop the early programming standards of COBOL and FORTRAN. Holberton created commands, developed the numeric keypad and is responsible for the beige color of computers. She received the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association of Women in Computing in 1997.

Jean Bartik(1924- 2011)

Jean Bartik, born Elizabeth Jennings, was one of the more frequently recognized women of the ENIAC group. After majoring in mathematics at Northwest Missouri State Teachers College, she was hired by the University of Pennsylvania to work as a programmer forArmy Ordnance at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1945. There she met Kay McNulty and with her, took a position as one of the first programmers of ENIAC. Once ENIAC became a stored computer program, Bartik continued to work on the project. She also worked on the BINAC and UNIVAC I computers. She was an editor for Auerbach Publishers, and worked for Data Decisions. Bartik earned an MS in English from the University of Pennsylvania and an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Northwest Missouri State University. Northwest Missouri State University re-named its computer museum in her honor. She received the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association of Women in Computing in 1997, was inducted into the Women In Technology International Hall Of Fame and in the same year, received the Computer History Museum Fellows Award in 2008, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society Computer Pioneer Award in 2009.

Celebrating Computing Women, Part I

March 12th, 2012

Today we begin posting a series of biographies on female pioneers of the computer and gaming industry written by volunteer blogger, Heather Elizabeth Ross. We hope you enjoy these accounts of the achievements of the women without whom you probably couldn’t read this!

Augusta Ada Byron Lovelace (1815-1852): Prophet of the Computer age” & First Computer Programmer

Miss Augusta Ada King was born on December 10, 1815, the only child of poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabella Milbanke. Byron and Milbanke divorced and he left England permanently, leaving Ada to be raised by her mother. Dubbed the “princess of parallelograms” by her ex-husband, Milbanke was a patron and coworker of mathematician, Charles Babbage. Ada was rigorously tutored in math and sciences to counteract any paternal tendencies.

In 1834, Ada observed Babbage’s work on the analytical engine and she soon became a contributing expert on the machine. When in 1843 Luigi Menabrea wrote a summary of Charles Babbage’s analytical engine in French, Ada comprehensively translated it, including her own notes with encouragement from Babbage. Ada’s publication is widely considered to be the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine, thus making Ada the first computer programmer.

Ada Lovelace Day was founded by psychologist Penelope Lockwood to recognize women in science, technology, engineering, and math. The Ada Lovelace Award was established by the Association for Women in Computing in 1978. In 1980 the Department of Defense named its programming language “ADA” in her honor.The British Computer Society now has awarded a medal in her name and holds annual competitions in her honor. She died in 1852 of cancer at the age of 36.

The Ladies of ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer): “Computors”

Kay McNulty, Marlyn Wescoff, Fran Bilas, Ruth Lichterman, Adele Goldstine and Betty Snyder Jennings were the first “computors” who worked on ENIAC, the world’s first electronic digital computer. Housed at Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Engineering, ENIAC’s purpose was to calculate ballistic firing tables during World War II. Holding the job title of “computor,” the ladies determined the correct sequence of steps to complete the calculations for each problem and to set up the ENIAC by maneuvering 3,000 switches and 80 tons of hardware to program the ENIAC by hand.

Adele Goldstine and Betty Jennings were instrumental in programming ENIACs stored program. Goldstine wrote ENIAC’s original technical manual. Their contributions led to the first software application and the first programming classes.The ladies of ENIAC were inducted into the WITI Hall of Fame in 1997. A documentary on the women titled Refrigerator Ladies: The Untold Story of the ENIAC Programmers has been planned.

The Girl Scouts Celebrate 100 Years

March 12th, 2012

Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon Low (1860-1927)

The founder of the Girls Scouts was called “Daisy” by her Savannah family. Partly because they had Northern connections, the Gordons suffered little during the post-Civil War period of her youth, and she attended finishing schools in the South as well as in New York City. Daisy made frequent trips to Europe as a young woman, and after her 1886 marriage to a wealthy Georgian, lived as much abroad as in the U.S.

Nonetheless, there were troubles in her life. She grew increasingly deaf from early ear problems; she had no children, which defined her as an oddity in her time; and her husband’s interest in another woman was so great that he attempted to divorce her. When he died after eighteen years of marriage, he left his estate to his lover, and Low was only able to secure her financial future after long legal battles. Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Kathleen Brown of The University of Pennsylvania to Give a Lecture on March 14th

March 8th, 2012

The National Women’s History Museum and United States Studies

 of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars invite you to a lecture in the series

The Past, Present, and Future of U.S. Women’s History


What Do Sex and Laundry Have to Do With It? Thinking About Daily Life as a Source of Historical Change

Dr. Kathleen Brown

Professor of History

University of Pennsylvania



Wednesday, March 14, 2012 – Lecture, 4-5:30 p.m. – Flom Auditorium, 6th Floor

Reception, 5:30-6 p.m., Sixth Floor Dining Room

Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20004

This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested.

Please respond with acceptances only to

Please allow time to go through building security.

Directions to the Wilson Center are available at:

Giving Women’s History a Home

March 5th, 2012

Giving Women’s History a Home

By Marianne Schnall | March 5, 2012

NWHM supporters Madeleine Albright (left)
and Meryl Streep with Joan Wages, NWHM president and CEO
Perhaps this year’s Women’s History Month will mark the success of a push for a National Women’s History Museum, a campaign that has built up an impressive history of its own.

March is Women’s History Month, when we celebrate the contributions of extraordinary women of the past. But while a month provides a meaningful focus for honoring women’s history, that awareness should be threaded into our culture and educational systems year-round.  Such a goal is behind a movement to build a museum in Washington, D.C., organized by a group called the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM). Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama Proclaims March to be Women’s History Month

March 1st, 2012

Presidential Proclamation — Women’s History Month, 2012


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As Americans, ours is a legacy of bold independence and passionate belief in fairness and justice for all. For generations, this intrepid spirit has driven women pioneers to challenge injustices and shatter ceilings in pursuit of full and enduring equality. During Women’s History Month, we commemorate their struggles, celebrate centuries of progress, and reaffirm our steadfast commitment to the rights, security, and dignity of women in America and around the world. Read the rest of this entry »