Ada Lovelace Has A Day

March 25, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More

I just discovered that there is a day for this brilliant woman.

Ada Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron, a scholar, and wrote what is arguably the very first computer program in an essay about Charles Babbage.  Of course, since she was a woman at a time when women were considered not to have either brains or rights, she would have been seen as an anomaly at

Image by Wikimedia Commons

Image by Wikimedia Commons

best, a monster at worst.  Since she had some position, however, she has not been forgotten or dismissed.

Warning: personal opinion follows.

Women who denigrate the idea of Feminism and fail to understand how tenuous their position is vis-a-vis history cause me heartburn.  If they think about it at all, they seem to believe Woman As Property happens in the Third World and nothing like that can happen here (wherever the particular Here happens to be).

But then you run into something like this.  One paragraph from this report says it all:

Females do not have voting privileges, but are generally allowed to speak at meetings, according to Klaetsch. Sunday’s meeting was the first time in recent history that St. John’s Council President Don Finseth exercised his authority to prevent females from speaking, church members say.

This is in Wisconsin.  Recently.  I grant you, this is not a state practice, but in these times when so many people seem to feel that religion trumps civic law, it’s a disturbing thing to behold.  The question in my mind is, why don’t all the women there pick up their marbles and leave?

Because they either buy into the second class status accorded them or they like something about the condition they inhabit.  Western women have it easy in such matters—no one will stone them if they get a little uppity.  For them, this is a “lifestyle” choice, at least functionally.  In parts of the Middle East and Africa it’s life or death.

Back when I was in high school, in the supposedly enlightened United States of America, in 1971, I took an architectural drawing class.  The room was filled with boys.  All boys.

One girl was taking the class.  Where was she?  The teacher put her in a separate room, the supply room at the back, with her own drafting table and tools.  Why?  Because the morons inhabiting the rest of the class wouldn’t leave her alone, wouldn’t let her do her work, teased her, ridiculed her, abused her, told her she was weird, unnatural, a lesbian, that she wanted to be a man, that all she needed was a good screwing and she’d get this crazy notion of being an architect right out her system.  I heard this, witnessed some of it.  It made me profoundly uncomfortable at the time, but I didn’t understand it other than as the same run-of-the-mill bullying that I myself had been subjected to all through grade school.

But it went beyond that, I now see, because what she did ran counter to some idea of what the relative roles of men and women are “supposed” to be.  Did the boys indulging the abuse understand that?  No, of course not.  They were parroting what they’d grown up seeing at home and elsewhere, with no more reflection or self-awareness than the hardwired belief that Real Americans all love baseball that Communism was automatically evil and John Wayne was just shy of the second coming.  Analysis would be the natural enemy to a traditional view that maintained an absurd status quo and should therefore be resisted, hence anyone among their peers that preferred reading to sports was also an enemy.

So celebrate Ada Lovelace Day.  No one, male or female, should accept restrictions imposed by cant and tradition and national dogma.  But until it is entirely recognized that we are all of us People first, male and female next, and that equal rights accrue to people, not types, none of us are safe in our predilections and ambitions.

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Category: American Culture, Bigotry, computers, Culture, Current Events, Education, History, ignorance, Noteworthy, Politics, Religion, Sex, Social justice

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

Comments (2)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Thank you for the story about Ada Lovelace.

    Women have come a long way. We still have a way to go, however. An acquaintance of mine, a woman, is an airline pilot. There are relatively few of them. Sometimes, she'll hear a passenger commenting that "the pilot is a girl."

    I am an attorney. Much progress has been made in my field. Almost half of new law school graduates are women. Many of the best trial lawyers are women. Most people I know, lawyers and non-lawyers, take it for granted that a female lawyer could be an excellent lawyer. On the other hand, women are hired at the big firms at much lower percentages than their graduation rates. And who can walk the halls of most any law firm without noticing that almost all of the secretaries and legal assistants are women? But that is countered by more positive news: It's now rare to hear a male lawyer referring to his secretary as his "girl," a term that was far more common several decades ago.

    Another thought. Michelle Obama is an extremely intelligent and successful lawyer who has been shoved into the background role of "First Lady." The reason, I can only assume, is that she and Barack know all too well what happened when another intelligent First Lady, Hillary Clinton, dared to take on health care reform during Bill Clinton's first term. She was pilloried and told to got back to the kitchen.

    We've made so much progress in the past few decades. But there is still a lot of work to do.

  2. We have to figure out how to treat male insecurity, which is the primary source of all such prejudice.

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