Lelacoders: interviews with women hackers


Lelacoders is a cyberfeminist research project fromdonestech.net about the presence of women in the development of computer sciences, free software and hacker cultures.

An animation about the HerStory of computer sciences



For decades, research on gender and technology has highlighted the under-representation of women in technology. Although sub-research on the field studying women contributing to free software and hackers cultures is very limited, it also points to women’s low participation rates. However, behind these figures and the discourses that accompany them, other, hidden situations may appear: on the one hand, the existence of some women who do participate and might have been invisible before, on the other the widespread assumption that women are not interested or have an innate inability to engage with technology on a deeper level.

The aim of this animation is to actively oppose the prejudice that there are no significant women behind the development of sciences and technologies. This is the result of a systematic negation and invisibility of women in those specific histories. This drives to a lack of role models which perpetuate the women off-the-loop relation with ICT. Finding and making visible those stories is an important element to re-appropriate historical and collective memory and enable the emergence of new imaginaries which we hoped to be very much radical and feminists!

How To:

One very nice way of interacting with this animation is by projecting it with a beamer and enjoy the PD patch, its rhythm, the music and the enormous input of information it carries. It can be also used into many other different settings, for a concert, an installation very DIT, or as food for thought to engage people interested in technologies and their social, political, educational meanings into conversations about the visible and invisible gender divisions operating into our equal access to technologies, its understanding and development.

The animation format was chosen as a way of further exploring the possibilities offered by PureData (a free visual programming language) and how as a media it could feet our desire to spread this cyberfeminist work. We also understand that the first outcome of its visioning might be confusion :-). However, its primary purpose is not to be a videotutorial or a self-containing educational resource, it first aims at creating interest curiosity, surprise and we hope interest. Departing from confusion caused by too much data, people should be able to go towards a more documented understanding of women contribution to CS and the related social and political issues related to gender divisions inside IT contexts.


As said par Chris Marker “Luck has intuitions that should not be taken for coincidences”. Two years ago I was reviewing a beautiful visualisation made by normal c-alas and based on the text of VNS matrix “the bitch mutant manifesto”. This is how we came to work together in building this animation which first main task consisted in compiling images for the animation of this Her Story.

Meanwhile researching the HerStory, an email was forwarded from a friend of a friend involved in communitarian radio broadcasting in Oaxaca (Mexico) and which was putting up a publication of women experiences working or developing new ICT. She was also looking for latin american and african women and she was having a hard time to find this information on internet. There is a lack of coverage of those contributions in the history of science, translations but also of indexing and linking between the few contents available, which drive to a cyberfeminist field mainly composed by disconnected islands of knowledge. Even though this chronology is partial and subjective, it is important to open those lines of research and share more knowledge inside common free culture repositories such as wikipedia and have them linked with open data hosted in free platforms.

Next steps: Translation of the texts (see below) to spanish, catalan, french, portuguese. Exportation of the animations into new videos clips.

Thanks to: Normal c-alas for programming the patch, developing the animation, researching and editing images and being amazingly motivated and creative Foockinho for patiently editing the numerous images gathered Electroputas for the music: Ella (RmX ton Once to Open - Ella Fitzgeralt - from the first demo cd / eLeCTRopUtaS YEAR 2005) and thanks also to Osmozer / JT25 for the live music b01 for making the PD run and for the video export Reni hofmüller for the translation to german of the animation IOhannes m zmolnig for making the PD run for the Ministry of hacking Videohackers for the graphic target Sydney Padua for letting us use the wonderful images of her comic on Ada Lovelace Wikipedia and more specifically the Women in computing article Esao Andrews (Young Mary Shelley) The women are there, Computer Science for fun, annual issue 2 Margaret Sarah Carpenter (Ada Lovelace portrait) J. Howard Miller's (We Can Do It! poster) MichigansWallofFame (Rosie tech) Computer History Museum (ENIAC) The Ada project Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology fortheir Profiles of Technical Women: Famous Women in Computer Science Dr. James E. Brittain Masolino Utterlyelastic's Blog Computerhope.com Vintage Computer Festival website Computerhistory.org Lisa Foo American Institute of Physics (Henrietta Swan Leavitt) Amaya Rodrigo, primera mujer europea en desarrollar Debian, article by Mercé Molist (http://www.nodo50.org/mujeresred/spip.php?article650) And last but not least, The commons and the public domain

Text of the timeline used in the animation:

360 AD: Hypatia

First well-documented woman in mathematics. Head of the Platonist school at Alexandria %44 taught philosophy and astronomy. Her contributions to geometry and astrometry were instrumental in developing the planesphere and the astrolabe

1818:Mary Shelley

Wrote the first science novel on artificial intelligence: Frankestein

1842: Ada Lovelace

Considered the world's first computer programmer. Mathematician known for her work on Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine%44 recognized as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine

1856: Florence Nightingale

Visual presentation of information and statistical graphics. Nightingale rose diagram illustrate seasonal sources of patient mortality in the military field hospital she managed

1893: Henrietta Swan Leavitt

She joined the Harvard "computers": a group of women engaged in the production of astronomical data at Harvard. Her work was instrumental in discovery of the cepheid variable stars%44 evidence for the expansion of the universe

1877 - 1919: Harvard Computers women

The director of the Harvard Observatory hired women as skilled workers to process astronomical data.

Williamina Fleming Annie Jump Cannon Henrietta Swan Leavitt and Antonia Maury

1919: Edith Clarke

Electrical engineering - MIT - Electrical power system analysis.

1926: Grete Hermann

Foundations of computerized algebra and quantum mechanics

1941: Hedy Lamar

Patented a system basis for spread-spectrum communication technologies

1943: Rosie the Riveter

1941 only 1% of aviation employees were women and in 1943 they comprise an estimated 65% of the total. Of the 16.000.000 women employed over a quarter were in war industries.

1943: Operators at Bletchley Park - The Colossus computers used by British codebreakers

1943: Manhattan Project - Oak Ridge - Calutron -Wives of scientists were organized as "computers" on the Manhattan Project

1943: Gertrude Blanch - Led the Mathematical Tables Project group throughout the war.

1945: Grace Murray Hopper Programmer of COBOL and the first compiler - Coined the term 'debugging'

1946: ENIAC

Betty Jennings - Betty Snyder - Fran Bilas, Kay McNulty - Marlyn Wescoff and Ruth Lichterman were the original programmers of the ENIAC, the first electronic general-purpose computer

1949:Evelyn Boyd Granville - PhD in mathematics - Worked for IBM analyzing orbits and computer procedures

1950: Ida Rhodes

Designed the C-10 language used to calculate the census and the original computer used for the Social Security Administration

1962:Jean E. Sammet

Developped the FORMAC language and wrote about the history and categorisation of programming languages

1965: Mary Allen Wilkes

Computer programmer and hardware engineer and the first to use a computer in a private home

1965: Sister Mary Kenneth Keller

1st American woman PhD in Computer Sciences and contributed to BASIC development

1966: Margaret R. Fox

Chief of the Office of Computer Information and involved in the Association for Computing Machinery

1971: Dr. Erna Schneider Hoover

Mathematician inventor of a computerized telephone switching method preventing system overloads

1972: Adele Goldberg

Computer scientist Development of Smalltalk-80 and other object oriented programming

1972: Karen Spärck Jones

A pioneer of information retrieval and natural language processing - She said that "Computing is too important to be left to men"

1979: Carol Shaw

Video game designer of Polo game, 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe and River Raid

1984: Susan Kare

Graphic designer of many of the interface elements for the Apple Macintosh

1985: Radia Perlman

Software designer and network engineer and inventor of the spanning-tree protocol

1985: Donna Haraway

Published "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century"

1989: Frances E. Allen

First woman to win the Turing Award

1993: Shafi Goldwasser

Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of zero-knowledge proofs

1993: Barbara Liskov and Jeannette Wing

Developed the Liskov substitution principle and won the Turing Prize in 2008

1994: Sally Floyd

Her work on Internet congestion control is one of the top-ten most cited researches in CS

1997: Anita Borg

She developed an email and Web-based system for communicating in virtual communities.

Founded the Institute for Women and Technology

1998: LinuxChix founded by Deb Richardson

An organisation for women who use Linux and women and men who want to support women in computing

2002: Valerie Aurora

Published How to encourage women in linux and she is a co-founder of the Ada Initiative

2003: Ellen Spertus

App Inventor for Android

2004: Debian women

Promotion of women's involvement in the Debian Project