Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History - RADM Grace Hopper

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
This is Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. She had a Ph.D in mathematics from Yale University. She joined the Naval Reserves under the WAVE program in 1943 in order to serve during World War II. She served at the Harvard Computation Lab as a civilian contractor after the war was over, and continued her service in Naval Reserves until she was forced into retirement in 1986 at the age of 79.

She had an incredibly accomplished life, earning award after award for her work in Computer Science, developed the first compiler for a computer programming language, conceptualized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, helped to develop UNIVAC 1, and released the first compiler languages.

When I joined the Navy in 1984, there were not a ton of female role models. Women weren't even permitted to attend the Naval Academy until 1976, and the first woman to achieve flag rank did so in 1972. Women weren't allowed to serve on combatant vessels until 1993.

But there was always Grace. Excluded by law and inclination from combat service, she took on the field of Computer Science in the most male dominated culture in the country. And she was accomplished. She was worthy of respect. She did not apologize for her gifts or her work, instead making her mark on every aspect of her chosen profession with humor and grace.

I'm a systems engineer. The work of RADM Hopper is the cornerstone of my profession. As she noted, "Life was simple before World War II. After that, we had systems." Just so.


In her own words: 
A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for. Sail out to sea and do new things.
I've received many honors and I'm grateful for them; but I've already received the highest award I'll ever receive, and that has been the privilege and honor of serving very proudly in the United States Navy.

I admire and respect RADM Grace Hopper, who excelled in both my chosen fields - the military and STEM. Courageous, smart, non-conformist. Ill-behaved.

___________
This blog post is inspired by Ada Lovelace Day, an initiative to "share stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM."

12 comments:

Stacey said...

Thank you for sharing her story. Inspirational is too small a word to describe her accomplishments. Especially these days I am happy to read and remind the younger generation what can be done despite the odds.

mom in northern said...

Coolnes...

mom in northern said...

Coolness...still can't type.

mom in northern said...

I remember a young lady who wanted to be the "Front Admiral" when she decided to join up

Anne C. said...

What a great woman. :)

Beachy Fran said...

Her story is so inspiring it gives me goosebumps.

Karen said...

Thanks for posting this. I began my career in what is now software engineering in the late 70's. For years, I was the only woman in the IT department who was not a secretary. I am retired now but Grace has long been one of my heroes. Aptly named, every interview I have read showed her to be just that.

Janiece said...

You're welcome, Karen. Unfortunately, I'm still the only woman in most of the teams I'm in.

:-(

Carol Elaine said...

The word "awesome" is thrown about willy-nilly, to the point where it's lost most of its meaning (heaven knows I'm not innocent in that regard), but Grace Hopper fills me with awe. She. Is. Awesome.

Thank you for sharing, Janiece.

Matt said...

Hope you ladies won't mind a (fairly) manly man's comments . . . no objections? Ok . . . Anyone who hasn't seen the 60 Minutes profile of Adm. Hopper should try and watch. I have tried to find a link but, alas, can't find the full segment. For starters, try searching "Grace Hopper" on youtube and you can find some great clips, especially her appearance on Letterman and her lecture on nanoseconds, which is a classic! Love this Lady, thanks for the reminder Janiece!!

123 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Janiece said...

*TONG*