Me, thinking to myself last week: “Whoa…March is coming to an end soon – which means Women’s History Month is coming to an end soon! We’ve got to bring some awesome #womenshistory to Ask Trish!”
As I’m sure many of you know, March is Women’s History Month. Women’s History Month is about recognizing, celebrating, and sharing the stories of women that have made incredible contributions – big and small – to our society and world. It’s not just an opportunity to shed light on those stories we know well, but to remember women who have been forgotten by history, or are rarely discussed in their fields. With the end of March near, I thought that for Ask Trish’s last post of the month, I’d shine a light on 3 women who helped build the internet (the very thing we talk so much about on Ask Trish!). These women’s stories are uplifting, inspiring, and deeply powerful – and through their stories, I hope to share that energy with all of you, especially women-identifying readers.
Up first is Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician that is well known for claiming the title of the world’s first computer programmer. (Yes, that’s right – the world’s first computer programmer was a woman! #Queen) As a girl, her mother insisted that she receive an education in mathematics (unusual at the time for women). Then, at 17, she met Charles Babbage, known to many as the father of the computer – he invented the first mechanical computer. Over the years, they collaborated extensively. Her best-known work, completed in collaboration with Babbage, was the translation of an article on “the Analytical Engine,” which Ada annotated heavily, adding extraordinary and visionary ideas. Among them was a description of how the engine could be used to solve mathematical problems – in other words, a description of an algorithm, making her the world’s first computer programmer. Today, she is remembered by women in STEM fields around the world as a pioneer in her work.
Next up is Grace Hopper, an American computer scientist who actually coined the term “computer bug.” (Did you know that?! So cool.) Grace graduated from Vassar College in 1928 with degrees in mathematics and physics; she then received her masters degree at Yale and a doctorate at Vassar (all in mathematics). Talk about all of school! She put it all to work when, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor/the US’s entrance into World War II, she joined the war effort. (She was initially rejected for being small, but persisted.) As part of her work, she joined a team at Harvard working to develop MARK I, the first electromechanical computer; using MARK I, Grace and her colleagues computed calculations critical to the war effort. From there, Grace continued to work with computers, from building compilers that translated mathematical code into machine-readable code (a key step toward modern computer programming languages) and building the first programming language to use word commands (rather than symbols). The latter was considered a huge advance in making computer science more accessible. She is remembered as a true visionary and “Amazing Grace.”
Last, but certainly not least is Radia Perlman, whose work was crucial to the creation of ethernet technology. In high school, she took her first computer programming class – as the only woman in the class – an experience that spurred her interest in computers. She then attended MIT to pursue her undergraduate studies, as just one of a few women (out of 1,000 students in her class). During her undergraduate studies, she did work to develop a child-friendly version of an educational robotics language, making computer programming education more accessible to youth. It was during her graduate studies (also at MIT) that Radia first got involved in network protocols. And indeed, she is most well-known for building the “Spanning Tree Protocol,” or STP, that, to put it very simply, builds communication infrastructure for Ethernet networks. (This was a huge contribution!) Today, Radia is an author, has received over 100 issued patents, and received numerous Lifetime achievements awards. In other words, she’s a #girlboss.
I hope you enjoyed this post – and found these incredible women as inspiring and empowering as I do. Before we part ways, one last thing: whether you’re an #AskTrish regular, or you’ve just started recently tuning in to #AskTrish, don’t hesitate to share any of your thoughts, musings, or questions about the internet here. Your topic just might be featured in next week’s TikTok/blog post! Remember, any time you share a thought or question, you benefit our entire community – there’s a good chance there are other youth wondering the same thing. So take a chance – and just 2 minutes – to fill out that form. And as always: anything goes. No matter what’s on your mind, I’m so excited to hear from you.
Thank you all! Until next Tuesday,