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Math Programming Science

Rediscovering WWII's Top-Secret Computing 'Rosies' 113

An anonymous reader writes "Women were recruited to do ballistics calculations and program computers during WWII. Half a century later, their work is only beginning to get recognition." Some of that recognition is in the form of a documentary film released in 2010 titled Top Secret Rosies.
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Rediscovering WWII's Top-Secret Computing 'Rosies'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @04:12AM (#35148062)

    I went to high school in the late 1970's, just when the electronic calculator was becoming commercially viable. The head of our high school math department was a woman who also taught the linear algebra class. At that point she was in her 50s, and she liked to tell students her story of being a "calculator" during WW II, when she was fresh out of college. That's back when "arrays" were actual arrays of desks, one "calculator" in each performing one calculation on paper, passing the result to other calculator desks near her, getting results from others, then continuing the calculation with the newly received numbers for the next iteration.

    To this day when I'm programming a parallel physical model, I think of her saying "I was a calculator" and smiling at our bewildered faces. I'm glad to hear she's being remembered this way.


  • The "real" feminists (Score:4, Interesting)

    by acidradio ( 659704 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @05:34AM (#35148380)

    I think there were a lot of women who worked hard for the war effort who didn't get and who often didn't seek recognition for what they were doing. They were just doing their part to help win the war. My granny worked for the MI6 in London during WW2 as a code cipherer. She worked 18 hr days with a rest day inbetween. None of the men in her job category did such a thing. I think she determined that this made her highly productive and her superiors went for it. She participated in some really amazing stuff and didn't talk about it until the later years of her life.

    Nowadays you have a generation of women who call themselves feminists... but are they really? They may be women who work but do they work hard in order to really advance the cause or do they do it so they can have recognition? A degree in Women's Studies doesn't make the world a better place. So many supposed feminists point to Hillary Rodham Clinton as a good role model. Hillary though stood by while her husband cheated on her then wrote a book about it. Would a real feminist do something like that?

  • Re:Two Thumbs Up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @05:57AM (#35148450)

    Please, please use quotes, since the comment you're replying to is modded to invisibility your post just looks schizophrenic.

    Anyway, when it comes to the pay...as with most things in life the phrase "it's a little more complicated that that" applies.

    women do tend to get paid slightly less.

    Women genuinely are less likely to *ask* for more.
    I'll dig out the link later but I came across a fascinating study done by an economics professor who looked into the subject in detail.
    What prompted her interest was coming across a situation which at first looked like terrible discrimination but turned out to be a little more complicated.
    She noticed that of the grad students in the department almost every male was teaching classes and no females were. In academia that's kind of a big deal since it means experience etc etc.
    At first glance a simple case of discrimination..... so she went to ask the head of department why he was discriminating against all her female grad students.
    And found out the simple reason.
    Anyone who'd come to him and asked to teach a class had been given a class to teach.No females had actually asked. The males had.
    It wasn't the head of departments fault the women hadn't asked.

    So she organised some experiments to look into the phenomenon further.
    participants were given a task and at the end were given a small sum of money and asked if they were happy with it.
    If they said no got slightly more.
    most of the males bargained for more, most of the females did not.

    ie: women get less because they ask for less.

    but of course still "it's a little more complicated that that" applies.
    after even more experiments which included groups who could penalise each other and the opinions of other people was taken into account something else came up.

    everyone ( especially women) was more likely to penalise a women who asked for more more than a man who asked for more and their opinions would be more negatively affected by women than men.

    so it isn't utterly irrational. Women don't ask for more because they genuinely do get penalised more socially and they themselves penalise people more for the same actions so even when there is no penalty they're less likely to ask for the jobs they want or the extra pay they want.

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @06:34AM (#35148562) Homepage Journal
    Now, now - you can't have it both ways. Was your mom "kicked out", or did she willingly head back to the safety and the comfort of the city? My mama was probably - ohhh - I'll guess 5 to 8 years older than your mama. My mama told us very clearly that she was HAPPY when she didn't have to play "Rosie the Riveter" anymore. She WANTED to go home, play house, care for her war hero, raise kids, and all that other feminine stuff. I think that most all of us, male and female, tend to see things from our own perspectives, here, today. We just forget, or gloss over, what real life was like back then.
  • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @09:20AM (#35149316) Journal

    You're going for funny, but the women were mostly treated like crap by the military brass once the war ended. Look up the history of the female test pilots and trainers. They were typically given the worst jobs, many died on the job, and at the end of the war they got a pink slip and no recognition or benefits. The men OTOH were given parades, VA benefits, pensions, you name it.

    It's a pretty shitty part of US history and I'm glad that someone is finally recognizing the role of women in early technology.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.