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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Our Adorable Past

Blast From the Past: When Cosmo Wrote Articles Convincing Women To Be Programmers

Join us as we travel back to a time when misconceptions about there being only certain kinds of work that could be efficiently performed by the female intellect (woman’s work, now there’s a concept I’d like to give a good swift punch in the head) and misconceptions about whether programming was a highly technical, creative, and demanding job… or basically a slightly more complicated stenography position.

Oh, and happy SysAdmin Day!

Women were way more involved in the early days of coding (and code breaking) than we often hear about. Bletchley Park, for example, the UK’s center of codebreaking in World War II, had a staff that was 80% women “calculators,” that is, the ladies that did all the tedious math because we hadn’t invented machines to do it for us… Yet, because Bletchley park also produced Colossus, the world’s first programmable digital electronic computer, whose units were operated mainly by members of the Women’s Royal Navy Service.

So yes, as this article from a 1967 issue of Cosmopolitan tells you…

Women, with their eternal patience and attention to detail, are perfectly suited for the job of programmer that we don’t want to do! Why, it’s just like planning dinner, because you can have a career, ladies, but you shouldn’t forget that no one will marry you if you can’t be a housewife, too.

And if it doesn’t sound like woman’s work? Well, it just is.

(via Sociological Images.)


  • Frodo Baggins

    “misconceptions about their being only certain kinds of work”


  • Anonymous

    ah, crap

  • Nick Gaston

    Well of COURSE women are naturally suited to being programmers…you’d expect a MAN to TYPE? That’s secretary work!

  • Anonymous

    It’s not terribly surprising that they were tying themselves into knots coming up with contradictory reasons that women were suited for the job.  Because, really, the only common characteristic of “women’s work” is that it barely paid enough to support an adult, let alone a family.  As soon as the pay went above that level (in about the same era this article was published, in fact,) management suddenly discovered male aptitude for the job, rationalizations reversed themselves fast enough to get whiplash, and these kinds of articles were replaced by endless chat about why “women don’t make good programmers”.

    Cognitive dissonance and bigotry go together quite wonderfully, don’t they?

  • Anonymous

    This reminded me of a graphic I StumbledUpon yesterday (showing that boys can be pilots, doctors, policemen, etc, while girls can be stewardesses, nurses, and meter maids) :

    I don’t know if it authentic, but it certainly seems like it could be.

  • eric pfeifer

    to be fair it was grace hopper who said that programming was like planning a dinner party, and she invented compilers, COBOL, and the word ‘debugging’

  • eric pfeifer

    let’s not forget that even though the first computer was invented by a man, the first person to write a program for it was a woman

  • Eric Bazilio

    “Cognitive dissonance and bigotry go together quite wonderfully, don’t they? ”

    It’s the only way prejudice can survive. We wouldn’t want that pesky logic getting in the way.