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Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of WWII

4.6 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

In 1942 soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a secret military program was launched to recruit female mathematicians who would become human computers for the US military. Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of WWII shares a story of the women and technology that helped win a war and usher in the modern computer age.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: .
  • Directors: LeAnn Erickson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: January 11, 2011
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00443FMKC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,460 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ellee Koss on March 15, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I bought this video for my Mom who is one of the early pioneers as well. Imagine our surprise to find her photo on the cover... The video does a great job depicting what the early days of computing were like and the role that women played. Thanks for doing this LeAnn!
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I'm grateful to LeAnn for having made this film. I wish they had done it decades ago, of course, when memories were better. My mom was one of the "computers" at Penn. She worked with the ENIAC computations and went to the Aberdeen Proving Ground. I've heard this all my life. Until maybe 15 years ago my mother could have recounted this blow by blow (down to Eckert and Mauchly or one of them--I don't' remember--spying on their lunches because he thought dessert made them do math slower (my mom loves dessert), and having them work through Thanksgiving with no heat. My mom was VERY good at math, and started Penn at 16. She graduated in 3 years with a degree in economics. She is 88. And she has always been VERY proud of having worked for the ENIAC project (it was the only job she ever had). Her father picked her up every night and she couldn't tell him what they were doing. She watched the film, but she was very tired and slept through part of it. Every once in a while she'd wake up, say "it's Press Eckert" or "it's the ENIAC" and was out again. When I got my first computer (a MacPLus) mom wouldn't touch it, because she said she "hates computers". When I asked why she said "I hate the ENIAC." But that turned out to do more with things like lunch and the heat, not the actual computer. Needless to say, my smiling Mac didn't look anything like what she thought a computer ought to look like. I think it would be good to compile a list of as many of the "computers" (the actual women) as possible. So here it is, Shirley Spiers.
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What a great video to show the role of women in mathematics in history. At a time when many girls still don't see themselves as math people, everything we can do to build their math confidence counts!
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I was working on a presentation for a computer club to honor women on Valentines Day. I was pretty much finished when I bought this DVD. It affirmed what I had done. It tells a story about the accomplishments of "women as computers" in WWII and after. They did not receive recognition for computing trajectory tables for the artillery of for the Norden bombsight. They received literally no recognition for programming ENIAC - the first computer. The presentation went over well. I credited the filmmaker and the author of the article that inspired me. I also stated the cost of the DVD was one of the best purchases I had ever made. Great true story.
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Format: DVD
Top-Secret Rosies is a fairly good documentary but it is only a step towards properly recognizing the math, science, and technical roles filled by women. The documentary has a "by the numbers" feel in its construction and its appeal for overdue recognition. But the story is too important too long held a secret. It is timely in that we can get first-person testimony from the women who lived it. The conclusion is that the quality of the story overcomes the shortcoming in the telling of the story.
WWWWWWWWWWWW

I have read many books about many different aspects of World War II. I have had a long interest in things espionage related and topics formally too secret to have been be previously known. A theme that runs through many of these books is the role played by women. Women code-breakers were very important at England's Bletchley Park. Women are mentioned as serving in a number of critical roles in America's nuclear weapons development. And while there is a library of books by and about women serving in military uniforms nurses and Red Cross uniforms and the various "Rosie the Riveter" wartime manufacturing positions; hereto for I've only known of Navy Lieut. Grace Hopper as one of the women who directly contributed to both the war effort and the invention of the computer industry. Top-Secret Rosie represents the first effort I have seen that speaks to the role of groups of women in secret positions doing specifically advanced math and foundational computer-related work.

I frequently read that women do not test very well in the math and sciences. I am heartened to know that this gap is closing but often it is represented that we cannot close the gap without teaching methods that specifically target women.
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The true story of the female mathematicians who were critical to the war effort during World War II. Their skill saved countless Allied lives. And yet they were snubbed when the reporters came around after the war was over.
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I teach Women's Studies (high school social studies elective) and this movie has many parts that give the girls reason to be proud of their World War II predecessors. It is actual footage of women working in an effort to provide the necessary ballistics calculations (for air and ground weapons) for our troops. It also introduces the ENIAC, the first ever computer that women were an integral part of programming. I think it is excellent and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
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