Feb 242010
 

Bella Abzug 1920 – 1998

Big mouthed funny hat wearing New Yorker who grew up working in her family’s store – “The Live and Let Live Meat Market”.  Ran for congress at the age of fifty with the campaign slogan: “A Woman’s Place IS In The House”.  She meant The House of Representatives. Ever hear of the Pentagon Papers?  They were “secret” documents about the Vietnam War and SHE got Nixon’s administration to give ‘em up. She was rejected by Harvard Law School on account of her having a pair of ovaries (an annoying and recurring theme in women’s history), Lotsa firsts – including being the first member of congress asking for Nixon’s impeachment, being the first Jewish woman elected to Congress, and she presented the first bill trying to get equal rights for homosexuals. Wonder what she’d say today about Prop 8.  Probably a lot and in a loud voice. She ran for President in 1972 along with Shirley Chisholm, and Patsy Mink. She said (among many many other things) “I began wearing hats as a young lawyer because it helped me to establish my professional identity. Before that, whenever I was at a meeting, someone would ask me to get coffee”.

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Feb 242010
 

ada lovelace

Noble English mom and math whiz, she was the daughter of Lord Byron (who she never knew but is buried next to). She showed signs of her genius as a child. Her mother, a big math fan herself, had a huge influence on Ada’s life and the direction it took. Married briefly to the nomadic, aristocratic and incredibly flirty Lord Byron, she took Ada away from her famous dad when Ada was just five weeks old.

Fearful that Ada would follow in her famous father’s footsteps, her mom steered her away from studying the dangerous subjects of literature and poetry and guided her intellectual studies toward math and science. Still in her teens, she became fascinated with the inventor Charles Babbage and his Difference Engine. He became her mentor, helping her to study math at The University of London.

When he created the Analytical Engine, this enchantress of numbers, as she was called, wrote the plan for how engines might calculate numbers – regarded by many as the first computer program– all at the age of twenty-eight. She published this historical work under the initials A.A.L., as women were not accepted as intellectuals.

At the age of twenty, she had married a King – a William King – and when he became an Earl (of Lovelace) she became a Countess. Unfortunately, after she published her now famous work, it was all down hill from there.

This “poetic mathematician” hung out with lots of famous people, including Charles Wheatstone, inventor of the telegraph and microphone; Sir David Brewster, inventor of the kaleidoscope; and Charles Dickens. However, her own letters describe a tortured life of illness, gambling and debt, battling drug addiction and eager to flourish in a man’s world. She has. The United States Department of Defense developed a software language in 1979 and named it “Ada” after her.

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Feb 242010
 

Jeanette RankinPolitician, Pacifist, Reformer. Jeanette Rankin became the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives and the first female member of Congress on April 2, 1917.

First order of business (after having a “Ladies Room” installed) was suffrage (the right to vote), which she got for women in her home state of Montana in 1914 – five years before the 19th Amendment passed. A die-hard pacifist and Gandhi fan, she voted against World War I and became very unpopular when she voted against World War II, making her the only member of Congress to do so.

Still running for office at the tender age of eighty-eight – for a third term in Congress – she died from surgery complications in 1973.

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