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Blog of Choice / Exrta Credit Blog — Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II

 Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II Movie Reaction

Patrick Superko

After seeing LeAnn Erickson’s movie “Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of WW II”, I found parts of the movie very easy to relate to Steingraber’s book “Living Downstream”.  Before I go into any connections that I made between the movie and Steingraber’s book, I would first like to give some brief background and context about the movie.  So, during the time of World War 2 while most American men were involved with the war, women were asked to function as computers.  In the time of World War 2, computers weren’t what they are today; they were literally humans who computed data and information; calucalated information for hours on end.  During World War 2 these women computers often worked long days with very little time off, computing trajectories on how to shoot missiles in order to hit the enemy or even when/where to drop airstrikes.  These women were abiding by “Rosie the Riveter’s” ideals during World War 2 of replacing jobs that men left when joining the war.

After the war, some of these women applied their computation knowledge to helping program some of the worlds first computers that could do calculations much more efficiently than and man or woman at the time.  As the title of the movie “Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II” suggests, LeAnn Erickson believes that the important role that women played during World War 2 is overlooked, hidden, or almost kept a secret.  Prior to the Steingraber reading and LeAnn Erickson’s movie, I personally, was under the assumption that women weren’t allowed to participate in the war; that they had to work at home and take care of their families until their husbands come back from the war.  Without women working the outrageous amount of time that they did as computers during World War 2, the war may have gone a much different way.  Missiles could have potentially missed their targets, air strikes wouldn’t have been as accurate, and the modern day computer wouldn’t have been developed until years later without the help of women.

This movie relates to the book “Living Downstream” and our class discussion from March 30th.  In “Living Downstream” and our class discussion alike, the ecofeminist issue of DDT usage was raised.  During World War 2, the Allied forces used heavy amounts of DDT (DichloroDiphenylTrichloroethane) to reduce the risk of both malaria and typhus.  So much of this DDT was produced, suggested by the film “Top Secret Rosies”, that after World War 2 it was sold back to farmers and civilians as a commercial product without knowing the full side effects of the product.  DDT has been proven to lead to deaths of many bird species, insects, and animals alike; birds of prey eat fish that contain traces of DDT in their system and these traces of DDT lead to negative effect on their ability to reproduce (thinner eggs that are more susceptible to breaking, etc).  Some bird species that have been affected by DDT include the bald eagle, osprey, and falcons.












I do not blame the USA for their actions one bit; they tried to liquidate their excess DDT and cut their losses successfully after World War 2.  The only problem they ran into was that they were unaware of the long-term implications and effects DDT could have on the environment.  If I were put in a similar situation without knowing the full effects (both short and long-term) of a product, I would do all the research and testing possible before releasing a new product into the market.  That having been said, the US government was at fault for using so much DDT during and after World War 2 yet didn’t have a response to fix this problem.  The US government should be held accountable for both the death of animals and pollution of the environment and should attempt to resolve this problem, except 60 years later I do not expect that to happen.


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Top Secret Rosies

Top Secret Rosies tells the story of women computers during World War II. They were women who were all very good in mathematics and computing. During the war they were needed to compute trajectories for bombs and bullets alike and used their knowledge of mathematics to do the best they could to assist the war effort. The main thing these women all had in common is their mathematics. Their strength in this subject is what brought them together for the project of helping create the first electronic computer. The computer then was nothing like the computers we have in today’s society. It was big and involved many people and many switches to complete a simple mathematical problem. This is where these women, the Rosies, came into play. The Rosies aided the computer by pressing and flipping switches at the exact time it was necessary to make the computer work. This was an achievement for women at the time. While their work was secret, they were still women working to further the war effort. After their help in the war, some women continued in math careers and others did not. They all went their separate ways, but none of them were forgotten.

Upon seeing this documentary, I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount that women helped during World War II. Due to the amount of electronics in today’s society, I never thought of computers being people. I admire that these women used their great depths of knowledge to gain a place in history. As a physics major, this story is one that inspired me to a strong woman in my field. While today our computers are electronic and not people, I hope to have an opportunity to contribute to society like the Rosies did. I believe these women are a good face for feminists. During World War II women were not taken seriously as workers. I believe that, despite being secret, these Rosies furthered the movement of feminism.

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Random Resources I Enjoy



-Jessica Libowitz

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Fresh From the Farm!

The Best Summer Food in Carlisle: Fresh strawberries managed and harvested by my friends and classmates at the Dickinson College (now Certified Organic!) Farm. Today I picked up my first CSA share of vegetables from the farm which included green onions, garlic, sugarsnap peas, strawberries (!), cilantro, chard, salad greens, lettuce, spinach, and more!

Every year from May through June, the Farm offers a program called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) through which local consumers like me subscribe and receive a weekly supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Buying into a CSA is an investment in the financial stability of local farmers and their farms, by allowing farmers to focus on the quality of their food and not solely on potential profits. CSA encourages sustainable agriculture that is local, organic, and poly-cultured (they grow numerous plants that support each other and the soil).


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