Women and Technology circa 1950


In 1950, Elizabeth Lee Hazen and Rachel Brown developed an anti-fungal agent for yeast infections. This photograph was distributed in 1955 when Hazen and Brown were awarded the first Sqibb Award for their achievements in chemotherapy (Smithsonian Institute collection).

For additional reading about Hazen and Brown’s achievements, see the Chemical Heritage Foundation website.


Keypunch operators were in high demand in the 1950s and were generally women. They worked full time in keypunch departments that had dozens, sometimes hundreds, of operators (Heinz Nixdorf Museums).

For more information on keypunch machines, see the Columbia University website on computing history.


Starting in the 1880s, women started to replace men as switchboard operators because companies found women to be more courteous to callers (and it was much cheaper to hire women). By the 1950s, the pervasive image of switchboard operators was that they were young, attractive, and female (Merchandise Mart).

For more information on switchboard operators, see the Gigaom Research blog on the switchboard.


IMB’s 1950s recruiting brochure which was targeted at women. In 1956, they appointed Jeannette Kittredge Watson as the first female member of the Board of Directors (IMB).

For more information about women at IBM in the 1950s, see IBM’s Women in Technology 1950s timeline.


TV ownership expanded in the 1950s and programs were developed to tailor to housewives (Time and Life Picture).

For more information on women and TV in the 1950s, see the Guardian’s article on the TV watching habits of housewives in the 1950s.

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