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Women, Gender, Sexuality, and Computing History

David Brock, Computer History Museum: “The experience of women, and the issues of gender and sexuality, are vitally important to our understanding of the story of computing, and hence our contemporary world, for many reasons. Perhaps most straightforwardly, women have been ubiquitous throughout the history of computing as makers and users of it. As Eileen Clancy, the archivist and City University of New York graduate student, so aptly put it in her recent talk “Sekiko Yoshida: Abacus ‘Software’ in the Early US Space Program” at the Society for the History of Technology’s 2017 meeting: “The women are always there, if you look for them.” In contrast to their essential roles, women have far too often been rendered invisible, absent from historical accounts and understandings. Sometimes, this invisibility is a deliberate erasure in which the contributions of women to computing work of various sorts was devalued culturally and economically, and thus went without recognition or documentation. Indeed, as the historian of computing Marie Hicks recently noted at a fascinating CHM Live event at the Computer History Museum about her new book Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost its Edge in Computing, it was the very fact that women did particular kinds of work in computing that this work was devalued, and unrecorded. Hicks’ carefully researched and thoughtful study treats the experience of women, and the centrality of gender and sexuality, in the history of computing in Britain in the crucial decades of the 1940s to the 1970s..”

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