Ada Lovelace Day – Honoring Women in STEM

By Claire, Communications Intern

Unless you’re already technologically inclined you probably don’t know who Ada Lovelace was.  Or what STEM means.  Ada Lovelace Day,which happened earlier this month on October 7th, is dedicated to honoring the women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

Ada Lovelace lived from 1815 to 1852 and is considered by many to be the world’s first computer programmer (despite modern computers being invented more than a century after her death).  Her father was Lord Byron, and her mother decided it was best Ada not be like her poet father.  Hence, she was taught extensively in mathematics to counter any poetic yearnings she may have inherited.  She was raised in elite London society where the gentlemen of the time studied science instead of religion or politics.

It’s not really surprising how she turned out.  She remains to be a remarkable example of a woman in a time when it was even questionable to educate women at all.

She developed a life-long friendship with mathematician and professor Charles Babbage, and during her life helped him create his Analytical Engine,  which she saw as a “general-purpose computer.”  She wrote extensively about the machine in her notes which survive today and are a testament to her genius.

Ada Lovelace Day is for honoring women around the world who are following in her footsteps.

Why  celebrate Ada Lovelace Day on a reproductive rights blog? Because in countless ways, science and technology have created choice.  Science and technology have made abortion safe.  Science and technology have invented hormonal birth control methods and refined them to make them safer and more effective.  Science and technology have made infants healthier by helping us to understand the development and needs of fetuses.  Science and technology have made it safer to give birth, allowing for many women around the world to survive to raise their children.  They have even allowed women to become pregnant when natural methods have failed.

Women are a part of this scientific movement to make every child wanted and every woman who wants to be a mother, a mother. Right now there are women researchers, doctors, nurses, scientists, lab technicians, grad students, professors, bioengineers and so forth who are working to improve the lives of pregnant women everywhere.  They are providing abortions and instructing prenatal care.  They are providing birth control and looking at newer, better ways to prevent unintended pregnancy.  They are giving comprehensive medically-accurate sex education to our youth and other people who need it.  They are women on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic and working to improve maternal and infant health in impoverished nations.  Many of  these same women are blazing trails for other women to follow, creating a space for women in these still very white, elitist, male dominated fields.

We salute you women of the medical, scientific, technological, and engineering fields who are creating a better world for all women everywhere.

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