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Top Secret Rosies: The Female 'Computers' of WWII (2010)

Not Rated | | Documentary, War | 2010 (USA)
In 1942, when computers were human and women were underestimated, a group of female mathematicians helped win a war and usher in the modern computer age. Sixty-five years later their story has finally been told.


LeAnn Erickson

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Credited cast:
Jean Jennings Bartik Jean Jennings Bartik ... Herself
Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer ... Herself
Shirley Melvin Shirley Melvin ... Herself
Doris Polsky Doris Polsky ... Herself


In 1942 a secret US military program was launched to recruit women to the war effort. But unlike the efforts to recruit Rosie to the factory, this search targeted female mathematicians who would become human 'computers' for the Army. From the bombing of Axis Europe to the assaults on Japanese strongholds, women worked round-the-clock shifts creating ballistics tables for every weapon in the US arsenal. Rosie made the weapons, but the female computers made them accurate. When the first electronic computer (ENIAC) was developed to aid the Army's calculation efforts, six of these women were tapped to become its first programmers. While the work of these human computers proved crucial to allied victory, it also carried a moral weight - how to square the larger issue of ending a world war against the personal recognition that their mathematical computations made every Allied bomb and gun more deadly. The summer of 2010 marks the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII, yet the amazing account ... Written by LeAnn Erickson

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In war, math may be the most secret weapon of all.


Documentary | War


Not Rated






Release Date:

2010 (USA) See more »

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Production Co:

Independent Production See more »
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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1 / (high definition)
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User Reviews

An enlightening and moving account of a heretofore little-known women's non traditional job during WWII.
15 October 2010 | by lflandreauSee all my reviews

I highly recommend this documentary for anyone interested in WWII, women's labor issues, women's education, and mathematics in particular, and/or the intersection of history and sociology. The film skillfully weaves individual stories with the seeping tide of WWII, and specifically the engineering required to implement state-of-the-art armaments. What emerges is how startling, not to mention infuriating it is, that this vitally successful work was ignored until now. Like so many of their generation, the women who performed this herculean task returned to their regular lives after the war, never revealing what they had done. I'm so glad on their behalf that Ms Erickson has told their story in this eloquent film. Beautifully shot and edited, it hits all the right notes.

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