Despite many women interacting with technology in the home through new household items in the 1950s, many women were actually pioneers for computer science and worked with technology outside the household.
The following photo depicts Beatrice Helen Worsley, Canada’s first female computer scientist, in front of the EDSAC in Cambridge circa 1949-1951. Worsley was a member of the Cambridge, UK, Mathematical Laboratory where she worked on the early runs of the EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) an early British computer.
For additional reading about Beatrice Helen Worsley and her contributions to computing history, see this link.
The following photo shows Melba Roy Mouton, a graduate of Howard University in 1950, in front of a computer at her workplace. In 1959, Mouton started working at NASA where she was head mathematician for Echo Satellites 1 and 2. Eventually she became Head Programmer designing computer programs that predicted aircraft locations and trajectories.
For more information on Melba Roy Mouton, see the following link.
The following photo shows Thelma Estrin and her team working on the WEIZAC computer mainframe. The WEIZAC or Weizmann Automatic Computer was the first electronic computer in Israel and Estrin and her husband spent fifteen months there working on it.
To learn more about Thelma Estrin and her contributions to computer systems, see link.
The following photo shows a woman operating an IBM 1620 Data Processing System circa 1958. The IBM 1620 Data processing system was a general-purpose, stored-program data processing system used by schools, small businesses, and engineering departments in larger businesses.
To learn more about the IBM 1620 Data Processing System, see link.
The following photo shows Lidy Zweers-De Ronde, on of Netherlands first women programmers, along with two colleagues at the console of a Ferranti Mark I at Shell Laboratory in Amsterdam circa 1952. This was the world’s first commercially available general purpose electronic computer.
For more information on the Ferranti Mark I, see link.
The IBM S/360 computers was the first family of computers could complete both scientific and commercial applications. It was released in 1964, and could complete 34,500 instructions per second. This is an image of a woman sitting at a printing apparatus with IBM 360 (specifically Model 40) in the background.
Photo courtesy of the Computer History Museum Archive.
For more information regarding the IBM System 360, visit the IBM 100 page.
“Dumb terminals” were a series of computers that allowed many people to use the mainframe at the same time. The image below shows a group of women using these IBM computers to manage airline reservations in a timeshare environment.
Photo courtesy of IBM archives. For additional information regarding the history
of women at IBM, click the Archives link to be redirected.
This is another image of both women and men using the SABRE Reservations System. It is interesting to note that a version of the SABRE system is still used to book airline reservations today.
Photo courtesy of Christopherson Business Travel.
For more information on the history and usage of SABRE Airline Reservation Systems, please read the original CBT article.
The 1971 DEC Resource Timesharing System (RSTS) was a software system designed to allow multiple users to interact with a DEC PDP-11 minicomputer (shown below). The artwork here shows a woman inserting a disk pack into the computer while the man is sitting at a DEC terminal/typewriter (and known as a DECWriter).
Photo courtesy of Computerhistory.org.
For more information on the early history of women and computing, please visit
the Computer History Museum webpage.
When you think of the United States and the 1960’s, one image that comes to mind is NASA and the space race. However, people commonly overlook the Lovelace Woman in Space program that established in 1960. Co-created by Brigadier General Donald Flickinger and Dr. W. Randolph Lovelace, the WISP was designed from a practical, engineering point of view, which theorized that women ought to be trained for space expeditions due to lower their body weights and oxygen requirements.
Below is a picture of Geraldine “Jerrie” Cobb beside a Mercury capsule.
Photo courtesy of NASA. For additional information about
Lovelace Women in Space Program, please read the Historical Perspectives PDF located here.