The Women of Woomera

Recently I was on National Radio Sydney in Australia talking about women in computing. I didn’t actually get to go to Australia–the show was taped via phone–but I did get a taste of some fascinating Australian history of computing. The show’s producer shared records about the women computer programmers who worked at Woomera missile testing range in the 1950s and 1960s with me. Woomera was a joint initiative set up by the UK and Australian governments to give Britain a place to test its long-range weapons. Women there did a lot of similar computer work as women in the UK and the US who worked on ballistics research by computer. A 1964 article from the Canberra Times, for instance, tells the story of “Mrs. Emily Hurt, an expert from the Honeywell Electronic Data Processing Company,” yet does so under the (somewhat incorrect) headline “Unusual Career for a Woman.” The article also leads with “She met the man she was to marry over the computers…” before talking about her technical skills and actual work. Hear more in my full interview here.

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