I’m not a big fan of invented holidays, particularly those that seem designed solely to keep greeting card companies and florists in business, but I think a day for Ada is well deserved.
Ada Lovelace Day is a day to remember Ada herself, and also to honor the accomplishments of other women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Ada Lovelace began life as a 19th century girl who wanted to learn to fly—so she studied birds and tried to engineer appropriate wings. Later she met Charles Babbage and working with his “analytical engine” became, in essence, the world’s first computer programmer. To learn a bit about Ada’s life, you might start with this New Yorker article.
The Finding Ada website is a good place to explore celebrations of Ada Lovelace Day. You can read (and perhaps be inspired by) celebrations around the world. You also can view videos from the 2013 Ada Lovelace Day celebration at Imperial College London. You’ll find women scientists who study everything from geology to laughter to cybersecurity, and even Helen Arney, who describes herself as a “nerdy comedian.”
The Finding Ada website also provides opportunities to post your own blogs about women in STEM who inspired you—or your students. If you have a school or class blog, this could be a great option for a real world (and world wide) audience. Or read the blogs others have posted. What a wonderful opportunity to expand young women’s options for role models.
Young creative scientists need to learn about those who have gone before—about the difficulties they faced and the challenges they overcame. Older students may want to examine the controversies over Ada’s contributions. Are her accomplishments real? Overblown? Or have they been discounted because she was a woman? Are they in any way related to current controversies over women in gaming being labeled Gamergate? The paths toward creative success are not straightforward. Let’s help students celebrate those who make their work–and modern lives–possible. .