Ada Lovelace:


One of the earliest women who received limited credit is Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), a British mathematician and computer scientist. I first came across her name on a Facebook group, A girl’s guide to taking over the world. For International Women’s Day, the Facebook group posted pictures of successful women who had contributed to society. Though the picture is not on the Facebook page any longer, I searched Ada Lovelace in various references and found out that her work from the 1800s has been credited and she can be named the earliest computer programmer as she discovered that an algorithm can be processed by a machine (Yount, 1999). “Even though they were written 100 years before electronic computers were invented, Ada Lovelace’s instructions for Charles Babbage’s ‘analytical engine' have been called the world's first computer programs" (Yount, 1999, p. 127). After Lovelace's passing in 1852 from cancer, the U.S. Department of Defence constructed, in the late 1970s, a "computer language for programming missiles, planes, and submarines and named it Ada in her honour" (Yount, 1999, p.1 129).


Adele Goldstine:


Adele Goldstine, an American computer scientist, played a role in working with the ENIAC project; she wrote ENIAC’s manual in 1946 (Fritz, 1996; Gurer, 1995/2002; Karnes & Stephens, 2002; Yale University, 2011). She helped to develop the object-oriented computing language, Smalltalk (Karnes & Stephens, 2002). Adele was also on ​a team with Mary Mauchly and Mildred Kramer, all three “mathematicians actively involved in programming ENIAC, and in recruiting and training the six appointees” (Gruer, 1995/2002, p. 178).


Adele Mildred (Milly Koss):


Adele Mildred Koss was an American computer programmer for the UNIVAC (Gurer, 1995/2002; Mirzeoff, 2013), the first commercial computer. Adele also played a key role in designing and the development of one of the first database systems that stored and received graphic images (Karnes & Stephens, 2002).​

  • Adele Mildred Koss began her computing career with EMCC [Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation]/Remington Rand in 1950 and retired from Harvard University in 1996. In between she worked at Burroughs and Philco as a programmer and a consultant to CDC [Control Data Corporation], and at Raytheon. Her expertise includes data access and database software. She received a BA in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania. Koss is a member of the IEEE Computer Society, the ACM, and the Association for Women in Computing. Her awards include a “pioneer award” at the 1997 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference and the AWC’s Augusta Ada Lovelace Award in 2000. (Koss, 2003, p. 59)

Koss was hired in May 1950 at EMCC and was assigned to work with the Logical Design Software group. At EMCC, she met other women working for the engineering and programming group: Jean Bartik, Frances Betty Snyder-Holberton, Margery K. League, and Hildegard Nidecker (Koss, 2003).


Alexander Illmer Forsythe:

​An American computer scientist, Alexandra Illmer Forsythe (1918-1980) studied mathematics in college and graduate school, and then became interested in computing. During the 1960s and 1970s, she coauthored a series of textbooks on computer science (Yale University, 2011).



Anne Van Vechten:


​On the website, Greater IBM, I came across Anne Van Vechten, who was IBM’s pioneering woman. She was hired in 1935 for IBM as a Systems Service Engineer (Greater IBM, 2013). She convinced her CEO that women’s abilities were valuable in the field and thus began the initiative to hire another 24 women and train them.



Annie Easley:


​Annie Easley, an American computer scientist, “developed and implemented computer code used in determining solar, wind, and energy projects for NASA. Her computer applications are used in the improvement of commercially available technology” (Karnes & Stephens, 2002, p. 198).



Dame Stephanie Shirley:


​Stephanie Shirley, at the age of five was put on a train with her elder sister from Vienna to England for a new life. As she grew older and saw few opportunities for women in the working field, she decided to make a change and create her very own company, Freelance Programmers. Freelance Programmers was created in 1962 and composed of only women, until the equal rights law came into play in Britain in 1975 and male programmers were also hired to work for the company.
  • ​Our programmers — remember, only women, including gay and transgender — worked with pencil and paper to develop flowcharts defining each task to be done. And they then wrote code, usually machine code, sometimes binary code, which was then sent by mail to a data centre to be punched onto paper tape or card and then re-punched, in order to verify it. All this, before it ever got near a computer. That was programming in the early 1960s. (Shirley, 2015, TEDTalk)
Shirley signed her name as Steve Shirley on many contracts to compete in the maledominated field. Her company’s value rose and became valued at $3 billion, making her one of the richest women in England; 70 of her staff members also became millionaires when Freelance Programmers rose into the stock market (Shirley, 2015). Shirley’s website continues to be under the URL www.steveshirley.com.




Elanor Kolchin

Throughout my research IBM kept appearing in the index of almost all computer books and articles I researched investigating women in early computing. Though I did not find anything in the books, I was able to find a newspaper article (Bosker, 2013) online mentioning Elanor Kolchin who had the job of a computer for IBM in 1946. According to The Huffington Post, “she was Columbia Engineering Quarterly’s first-ever female contributor, and spent over two decades manning computers to complete astrophysics research at New York University” (Bosker, 2013, para. 1).


Erna Schneider Hoover

Erna Schneider Hoover, an American inventor, earned her degree in Mathematics from Yale University (Karnes & Stephens, 2002). While working as a researcher at Bell Laboraties,

she invented a computerized switching system for telephone traffic, to replace hard-wired mechanical switching equipment. For this ground-breaking achievement — the principles of which are still used today — she was awarded one of the first software patents ever issued (Patent #3,623,007, Nov. 23, 1971). At Bell Labs, she became the first female supervisor of a technical department.” (Yale University, 2011, section 8)


Ethel Marden

Ethel Marden programmed the SEAC (Standard Eastern Automatic Computer), one of the first stored program computers (Karnes & Stephens, 2002; Newman, 2010).


Evelyn Boyd Granville

Evelyn Boyd Granville (1924-1980) was an American computer programmer who was one of the very first African Americans to earn her Mathematics degree from Yale University (Karnes & Stephens, 2002). She developed computer programs used for trajectory analysis in the Mercury Project (the first U.S. manned mission in space) and in the Apollo Project, that sent U.S. astronauts to the moon (Yale University, 2011).


Florence MacWilliams

Florence MacWilliams (1917-1990) was a British computer programmer who became known for writing “one of the most powerful theorems in coding theory” (Karnes & Stephens, 2002, p. 196). Her book, The Theory of Error-Correcting Codes, and coding equations are widely used by coding theorists everywhere.



Fran Allen

Fran Allen was the first American woman to work at IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Laboratory and was considered a pioneer in compiler optimization (Karnes & Stephens, 2002).


Homé McAllister (Reitwiesner)

When the ENIAC was moved to its new home in Aberdeen, Maryland in 1947, Ruth Lichterman from the original six was the only one who stayed at Aberdeen to help the ENIAC adjust. A new team of programmers joined Teitelbaum to work with the ENIAC: Gloria Gordon (Bolotsky), Ester Gersten, Winifred Smith (Jonas), Helen Greenman (Malone), Marie Bierstein (Malone), Lila Todd (Butler), and Homé McAllister (Fritz, 1996). Marie Malone’s profile can be found in this paper. Homé McAllister began her work of hand computing for firing tables at APG in July 1946 with Winifred (Wink) Smith. McAllister was later transferred to the IBM section where she wired boards for the tabulator and ran the sorter, reproducer, and the tabulator (Fritz, 1996). In an interview with Fritz (1996), McAllister shared that she, at first, did not want to be moved to work with the ENIAC but later enjoyed her time working with it.

Again I was upset a bit when they wanted to move me to the ENIAC. But move I did and again I fell in love with the work. I spent long hours trying to understand the “blueprints” and wiring diagrams for the ENIAC and to try to learn direct programming - the original mode of ENIAC operation. At the beginning I had very little direct contact with the machine, beyond using the IBM machines to prepare input and print output. I spent a lot of time learning how to understand and use flow charts and checking out flow charts for other coders. (Fritz, 1996, p. 24)

McAllister had the opportunity to work with the ENIAC, the EDVAC, and the ORDVAC.



Ida Rhodes

Ida Rhodes (1900-1986) was a Ukrainian computer programmer. She was a pioneer in the development of the modern electronic digital computer as well as in its use for numerical calculations (Karnes & Stephens, 2002).


Jean E. Sammet

An American computer programmer (Gurer, 1995/2002; Mirzeoff, 2013) and leading expert on the history of programming languages, Jean E. Sammet developed FORMAC (Formula Manipulation Compiler), the first widely used language that could manipulate symbolic mathematics expressions. She was as well the first female president of the Association for Computing Machinery, also known as the ACM (Karnes & Stephens, 2002).


Joan Margaret Winters

Joan Margaret Winters, an American computer programmer, designed and implemented SPINDEX II applications for the Department of Manuscripts and University Archives at Cornell. In 1976, she joined SHARE’s Human Factors Project, an IBM computer user group, and educated employees of IBM about the importance of software and conducting research into human factors and software tools (Karnes & Stephens, 2002).


Joyce Curie Little

An American computer scientist, Joyce Little developed one of Computer Science’s first curriculums (Gurer, 1995/2002; Karnes & Stephens, 2002). As well, she was an original programmer at Convair Aircraft Corporation in the Wind Tunnel Division (Karnes & Stephens, 2002).

She wrote programs to analyze data taken from models (e.g., airplanes, automobiles, radio towers) that were tested in an 8-foot by 12-foot wind tunnel. She wrote her programs in an assembly language, SOAP, which was run on an IBM 650 with punched cards. To ensure accurate and reliable results, a room full of 37 women using Frieden calculators calculated all the checkpoints to confirm the computer output. (Gurer, 1995/2002, p. 183)