Many of us are familiar with the female blue-collar workers that took jobs in factories during World War II. It turns out, however, that women were also employed as mathematicians and computers (that’s “compute-ers”). In this photo, Jean Jennings Bartik and Frances Bilas Spence get ready to present an early computer to military officials in 1946:

Women operating a “differential analyzer,” often checking the machine’s work by doing the math by hand:

Jean Jennings Bartik in 1946 with an early computer and Arthur Burks:

Their work was top-secret and so they weren’t part of the “Rosie the Riveter”-style propaganda at the time. Post-World War II disinterest in women’s accomplishments allowed their stories to remain untold.

A new documentary, forwarded to us by Jordan G. and Dmitriy T.M., reveals these high-tech Rosies:

Via BoingBoing, photos from CNN.

See also our post on the feminist mythology surrounding the iconic “Rosie the Riveter” image (hint: it was about class, not gender).  And you can buy Jean Jennings Bartik book, Pioneer Programmer, here.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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