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Review: 'Proving Ground' profiles first women programmers
by Mae Anderson, AP Business Writer

The Associated Press    Translate This Article
26 July 2022

On 26 July 2022 The Associated Press reported: When the world's first general-purpose, programmable, electronic computer, known as ENIAC, debuted in 1946, great fanfare was given to the men who created it, John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert Jr., among others. But little attention was given to six women who played big parts behind the scenes, spending months figuring out how to program the computer with little more to go on than diagrams of the huge, complicated machine. Global Good News service views this news as a sign of rising positivity in the field of science, documenting the growth of life-supporting, evolutionary trends.

In 'Proving Ground,' author Kleiman aims to rectify that, tracking down four of the six women for interviews and restoring them all to their rightful place in history. She chronicles how six young women from different backgrounds and regions of the U.S. -- Kathleen McNulty, Frances Bilas, Frances Elizabeth Synder, Marlyn Wescoff, Ruth Lichterman, and Betty Jean Jennings -- were enlisted to create the first computer program for ENIAC.

The women came together after a shortage of male mathematicians during World War II caused the Army to seek out women, placing a notice in newspapers: 'Looking for Women Math Majors,' and reaching out to college campuses.

... While early women programming pioneers Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper have taken their place in the annals of computer history, Kleiman shows us that there were other women programmers -- like the ENIAC 6 -- who deserve to be recognized as well.

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