Norma Scagnoli referred me to a wonderful podcast by LeAnn Erickson, Associate Professor of Film and Media Arts at Temple University. Erickson is an independent video/filmmaker, whose work has appeared on public television, in galleries, and has won national and international awards.
Entitled, Hidden Her-story: The Top-Secret “Rosies” of World War II, it was recorded in January at the EDUCAUSE 2009 Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in Philadelphia. I expected to listen for a minute and then go on to more pressing things, but after listening a little I decided that those things weren’t so pressing after all. It’s a fascinating story for anyone who has an interest in history, computers, women, education, mathematics, warfare, politics, Philadelphia, science, workplace equity, morality, or life in general.
In 1942, only months after the United States entered World War II, a secret military program was launched to recruit women to the war effort. But unlike recruiting “Rosie” to the factory, this search targeted female mathematicians who would become human “computers” for the U.S. Army. These women worked around-the-clock shifts creating ballistics tables that proved crucial to Allied victory. “Rosie” made the weapons, but the female computers made them accurate. When the first electronic computer (ENIAC) was invented to aid ballistic calculation efforts, six of these women were tapped to become its first programmers. “Top Secret ´Rosies’: The Female ‘Computers’ of WWII” is a documentary project currently in postproduction that will share this untold story of the women and technology that helped win a war and usher in the modern computer age.
Controls for the podcast appear beneath the description on the EDUCAUSE page.