The Secret History of the ENIAC Women

It’s an assignment that any developer today would be thrilled to take on: Program the world’s first modern computer — completely from scratch.

In 1943, six women were recruited to figure out how to program the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, a.k.a. “the ENIAC,” a massive computing machine commissioned by the U.S. Army that was used to calculate ballistic missile trajectories during World War II.

The women — Betty Holberton, Jean Jennings Bartik, Kay McNulty, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Ruth Lichterman, and Frances Bilas Spence — worked as “computers,” a clerical job that involved solving complex equations that would be used to build firing tables for guns. (Yes, their job title was literally “computer.”)  

Though these women were highly trained mathematicians, they had no blueprint to follow when it came to ENIAC. They were given wiring and logical diagrams of the massive machine, and told to figure it out.

When the ENIAC was finally unveiled to the public in 1946, there was no mention of the women who made it run and effectively invented modern programming. While figures like Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper are widely recognized as pioneers of computer science, the ENIAC Six (as the women who programmed the ENIAC became known) were almost erased from history.

Join us and guest speaker Mark Massey as we learn about the "ENIAC 6" during the kick-off to our 2024 educational programming!


Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024


7:30 p.m. - 9 p.m.


Zoom webinar (email mail@ColdWarHistory.org to receive link on day of program)