I haven’t written a post for Ada Lovelace Day in a few years (last in 2010) and recent conversations have made one feel necessary. When the contributions and accomplishments of my female contemporaries on the Web are unknown to people just a generation behind, I get extremely concerned. After all, the making of the Web is the making of history in modern times. As I’ve pointed out before, we have the opportunity to document our times and lives unlike never before — but data loss can occur. And it is.
Twenty years ago, when I was in college and learning how to create web pages, I pretty much had two sources of information: documentation written by TimBL and USENET newsgroups. But once I started working professionally, I realized that there was a wealth of information being printed on paper. And what I saw was that large numbers of these books on web development and design were being written by women.
Women such as:
- Elizabeth Castro
- Molly Holzschlag
- Laura Lemay
- Shelley Powers
- Jennifer Robbins
- Dori Smith
- Lynda Weinman
I wish I could tell you exactly how many books these women have collectively written — I’m sure it’s over 100 — but quick searches of their bios and websites doesn’t always make this data clear. Is it modesty? Do multiple editions make the numbers tricky? I don’t know.
But when I mention the names of these women — all of whom are still active online, many of whom are still writing (or speaking) about the web and programming — to web developers today, I’m often met with blank stares. I’ll have to mention that Lynda founded Lynda.com, (still!) one of the top online training sites, or that Jen co-founded the extremely popular ARTIFACT conference. I have to explain that Dori has helped run Wise Women’s Web, one of the earliest communities for female developers online, and that we have Molly to thank for convincing Bill Gates and Microsoft to be more open about Internet Explorer development at Microsoft (there are so many articles to link to, but I want to link to Molly’s old blog posts, which are gone *sadface*).
While my past ALD posts have been happy remembrances of people who’ve made positive impacts on my life, this post is written out of frustration — and even a bit of anger — that the contributions of these women are being forgotten or overlooked in their own time. Let’s give credit where it’s due. Comment or blog or tweet about the books written by these women that helped you learn your craft. Send them a thank you email or tweet. (In Molly’s case, you can give to her fund.) Share this post or the links to these women’s websites with someone who needs to learn about their foremothers. And just be thankful that women helped light the path for others by sharing knowledge about building the World Wide Web.