(Photo courtesy of Penn Library)
Women used to be computers. Used in World War II efforts as the earliest computer programmers, young women with STEM backgrounds used math to help develop strategy for the American war effort.
This often forgotten women in tech story is the focus of the ‘Top Secret Rosies’ documentary that first debuted two and a half years ago but is still catching attention. Because, as computer programming has become so male dominated as something to overcome in the name of gender balance, that role still surprises people.
It’s a good thing then that filmmaker LeAnn Erickson, Associate Professor of Temple University’s film department, poured years of her life and career into helping those women tell their stories on film.
The film tells the fascinating story of four young Philadelphians, Marlyn Wescoff, Jean Bartik, and Doris and Shirley Blumberg, who were among a class enlisted by the U.S. Military during the war to work around-the-clock to solve highly advanced mathematical problems. Their daily, classified work involved creating precise ballistics trajectories of every weapon in the Army’s arsenal.
Bartik was also among the first programmers of the ENIAC, the first electronic general purpose computer, designed and engineered at University of Pennsylvania. The ENIAC made it possible to calculate math problems that had previously taken up to 40 hours of human calculation in 30 seconds.
This Wednesday night most recent screening at the Comcast Center, which brought around 30 attendees, was hosted in partnership with the Greater Philadelphia Film Office as part of a series highlighting diversity in film.
In the spirit of Women’s History Month, the screening offered a glimpse into the rich history of women in technology that is often missing and overlooked.
To hear about upcoming screenings visit here.
Watch the trailer below.