In America’s history of computing, the two people who developed the first electronic computer were J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly during WWII (Light, 1999, p. 455). In the book, The First Computers, Rojas and Hashagen (2000) display an article, The ENIAC: History, Operation and Reconstruction in VLSI, talking about the history of the first electronic computer. This machine was titled as the ENIAC, Electronical Numerical Integrator and Computer, and was “unveiled to the public on February 14, 1946, at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania” (p. 121).
If the hardware was worked on by Eckert and Mauchly, who worked on the software? “Six ‘computers’ were selected in 1945 to be its first programmers”, Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Jean Jennings Bartik, Frances Snyder Holberton, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Frances Bilas Spence and Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum (WITI, The ENIAC Programmers, para. 1).
The ENIAC was funded by the U.S. Army and “because the ENIAC project was classified, the programmers were denied access to the machine they were supposed to tame into usefulness until they received their security clearances” (WITI, The ENIAC Programmers, para. 2). Since these women were the first programmers, they were not given any training, books or resources that would teach them how to program a machine they had never worked with before. The only resource they had the possession of was copies of logical diagrams to make the ENIAC work (WITI, The ENIAC Programmers, para. 3).

Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli

KayAntonelli.jpg Also known as Kay McNulty or Kay Antonelli (in the picture retrieved from WITI), Kathleen Antonelli was one of the original six women hired to work as a programmer for the ENIAC in 1942 (Fritz, 1996, p. 16). “She graduated in June 1942 as one of the three math majors in a class of 92 graduates. Her math courses included college algebra, math history, integral calculus, spherical trigonometry, differential calculus, and partial differential equations” (Fritz, 1996, p. 16). As cited by Fritz (1996), Kay McNulty says:

“Just after graduation, I happened to see an ad in the daily paper. The Army was looking for women with a degree in mathematics - right here in Philadelphia. I called Frances Bilas and Josephine Benson - my fellow math majors. For some now-forgotten reason, Josephine Benson couldn’t meet with us. In any event Fran and I went in together for the interview and were both accepted one week later as computers, SP-4, a subprofessional civil service grade. The pay was not spectacular, but at that time, and with no work experience, it was very welcome. We received notice to report to work at the Moore School” (p. 16).

Jean Jennings Bartik
Jean Bartik (in the picture on the left, retrieved from WITI) was the youngest of the six programmers. She was hired in 1942 to
work for the ENIAC as a programmer (Hally, 2005). However, according to Bartik, they were not titled as programmers but computers. Hally (2005) cites Bartik:

“I was the only woman mathematics major in my college. The jobs market was a big difficulty and we thought all we could do was teach school, and I definitely did not want to teach school. My calculus teacher knew that and she received this recruiting notice from Aberdeen Proving Ground looking for women math majors and she gave it to me. I applied for the job as a ‘computor’ - my title was ‘computor’!” (p. 10).

Frances Snyder Holberton

Holberton’s photograph, retrieved from WITI, shows that she also went by the name Betty, short for her middle name, Elizabeth. She was the oldest from the six on the team and was hired in 1942 for the ENIAC. She graduated “from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in journalism...Jointly with Jean Jennings, she developed the trajectory
program used to control the operation of the 1946” (Fritz, 1996, p. 17).

Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer
Meltzer (photograph retrieved from WITI), graduated in June 1942 “with a major in what was then called social and English and a minor in business” (as cited by Fritz, 1996, p. 22). She heard from a friend that hiring was taking place at the Moore School and that if she knew how to “run a calculator” (as cited by Fritz), that she would have a good
chance of getting hired. She was hired by John Mauchly’s wife, Mary, as soon as she found out that Marlyn knew how to “operate an adding machine” (as cited by Fritz).

Frances Bilas Spence

FrancesSpence.jpg Spence (photograph retrieved from WITI) was not able to give a lot of information about her work to Fritz due to the death of her husband (Fritz, 1996, p. 23). She graduated from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia “wanting to pursue a teaching career” (as cited by Fritz, 1996, p. 23).

Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum

Teitelbaum (in photograph on the left retrieved from WITI) had passed away by the time Fritz was writing his paper. She had a degree in Mathematics “and was recruited by Adele Goldstine...Ruth was the last of the original six to leave the ENIAC, leaving like others, to get married” (Fritz, 1996, p. 17). The work of these women allowed for the first electrical computer to work. They physically had to program the machine using “switches, cables and digit trays to physically route the data and program pulses through the machine” (WITI, The ENIAC Programmers, para. 3). It is important for these women to be known in the world of technology as they were the first creators of software. Though this term may have not been present at the time, using algorithms and solving numerical equations for the machine to work would be considered software today.