Archive for March, 2006

Reviving the Overlooked Voices of the ENIAC Programmers

Posted in Women's Voices on March 7, 2006 by Blog Admin

The recent <a href="">resignation of Lawrence Summers as Harvard President</a> has prompted much discussion in feminist circles.  There is an unfortunate editorial in the March 5, 2006 <em>Boston Sunday Globe </em>by John Silber defending Lawrence Summers' track record.  Silber suggests that creating The Stem Cell Institute, digitizing library holdings, and making curricular reform should override Summers' open bigotry to women and his hostility to <a href="">Cornel West</a>.  I and many women strongly disagree.  The academy cannot tolerate the small-minded bigotry of Lawrence Summers.  Prejudice is a trump card that overrides any accomplishment in the academy.  When this no-tolerance policy is no longer true our society will be lost.  No one expresses better the harm Lawrence Summers has done than <a href="">Jean Bartik</a>, one of the original ENIAC programmers.  I highly recommend you listen to <a href="">her oral history</a>. Enjoy!  Thanks Jean!

Happy Women's History Month

Posted in Women's Voices on March 1, 2006 by Blog Admin

<p>With my first blog entry in March I would like to reflect on the past 12 months.  During that time we have lost at least three icons of feminist and civil-rights activism.  We lost <a href="">Rosa Parks</a>, <a href="">Coretta Scott King</a>, and <a href="">Betty Friedan</a>.  While the world is greatly diminished by their departure, I would like to share some voices that are new to me, and may be new to you as well.</p><p>I am a woman in a traditionally male profession and a feminist, and I recently made a revelation in women's history that greatly moved me. I recognize that women are sorely under-represented in my field (computer science), and consequently always look for affirming information that might encourage women to enter this field.  Despite my interest, I am shocked that I only recently realized this very important piece of women's history.  The first <a href="">ENIAC</a> <a href="">programmers were <strong><font color="#ff0000">all </font></strong>women!</a>  The move to programming was a natural progression for the women who would become the ENIAC programmers, because they had the position of <em>computer</em> prior to that.  You read correctly, these women were computers.  Prior to the existence of computing machinery, people carried-out computational tasks, so one could find large rooms full of (mostly) women calculating things like actuarial tables and missal trajectories.  You may guess that these women were not highly-paid, despite having high skill-levels.  During this time analytical thought (useful for computing professionals) was attributed to the realm of women, and therefore not highly valued.  My how things have changed!  Are you listening grrrrls?  You can do this.  Together let us make this a friendlier field. </p>