Category Archives: Women & Technology

Reporting on women in technology.



Alice Ball was an American chemist who invented a chemical extraction process called the Ball Method. She was born in Seattle Washington and is the granddaughter of a slavery abolitionist, J.P. Ball. Alice graduated from the University of Washington in 1912 with a pharmaceutical chemistry degree and a bachelor’s degree in 1914. She went on to complete a master’s degree, during which she researched how to extract active ingredients from the root of the Kava plant, now used for its sedative and tranquilizing qualities.

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Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and the writer of the first published computer program. She was originally named Augusta Ada Byron and was the daughter of the famous poet, Lord Byron, and his wife, Annabella. In 1835, Ada married William King, ten years her senior, and when King inherited a noble title in 1838, they became the Earl and Countess of Lovelace. Most women in her position at that time were not encouraged in their education or intellect. Known as “the first programmer,” Ada was assisted in her learned by a mathematician-logician, Augustus De Morgan, who taught Mathematics at the University of London.

While working for an English mathematician, Charles Babbage, Ada developed an interest in his machines which later proved to be the forerunners of the modern computer. In 1843, Ada succeeded in translating and annotating an article written by mathematician Luigi Federico Menabrea on one of Babbage’s machines. Using what she called, “Poetical Science”, Ada also made detailed description of how an “Analytical Machine” could be programmed to calculate a sequence of rational numbers. Babbage referred to Ada as an “enchantress of numbers.” Today the Ada computer programming language developed in the 1980s for the U.S. Department of Defense is named in her honor.

Ada Lovelace is one of the biographies in the STEM Women Study Guide. The Guide is a classroom tool that encourages & educates women in Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM)
The Spiral Notebook, including discussion questions, was created in coordination with
Special thanks for their support of the project:
Platinum Sponsors: 
Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Humanities Tennessee
Gold Sponsors: 
American Diversity Report, Chattanooga Writers Guild, EPB Fiber Optics, excellerate!, Million Women Mentors, Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Southern Adventist University, The HR Shop, ThreeTwelve Creative, UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science, Volkswagen Chattanooga.
Special Thanks Southern Adventist University Intern Abigail White

STEM Women - Ada Lovelace

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STEM Women Stories – by Deborah Levine

Women GroundBreakers Storytelling

The push to attract women to STEM education and careers is gaining steam, but the impact is questionable. Young women have ample cause to be discouraged given the decrease of the number of women professionals in many STEM fields. Bucking the trend, efforts to encourage women to embrace STEM have increased dramatically. Those efforts span the country, including in Tennessee where Chattanooga’s Women GroundBreakers Storytelling featuring women in STEM.

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The Vision of an International Woman in STEM Education – by Dr. Neslihan Alp

I was born in Istanbul, Turkey. My father was a retired Turkish naval officer and I grew up on naval bases. My family sacrificed to educate me and my brother who is a medical doctor. Without an education, you can’t do anything. In Turkey, they kill each other to get a college degree. I attended elementary school early and learned to read early, a rarity in Turkey. These were French schools, and I spoke French before I spoke English.

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At Least She Was Never Bored – by Dr. Ruth Williams

I am of Black Caribbean, Dutch, French, and British heritage. I was born on the Dutch island of Aruba, and grew up on the Island of St. Lucia in Franco-British West Indies. I emigrated to the United States at the age of 19 years. I was inspired to go into my STEM field by Dr. C.P Shim who was the professor in an introductory psychology course that I took my sophomore year in college. Determined to be a biologist in general and in particular, a proto-zoologist, Dr. Shim opened up the field of human behavior and mental processes in a way that resonated with some longing for service and knowledge deep in my spirit.

Continue reading At Least She Was Never Bored – by Dr. Ruth Williams

The Power of We – by Jemila Morson

I often refer to myself as “bi-cultural” as I was born and raised between two very distinct cultural landscapes, southern America and the British West Indies. Chattanooga TN is my place of birth, and I was raised between there and my island home of Anguilla B.W.I. My father is West Indian and my mother is American of African and Cherokee descent. The dual identity has given me many growing pains finding an identity of my own, but I am proud of the rich cultures combined within me. When I moved back to the US in high school, people would often ask what my “race” was. It was difficult to explain, so being the marketer that I am, I quickly adopted a slogan for myself; “the perfect mix: an Indian, American, Caribbean chick.”

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It’s a Man’s World – by Alyssa Montague

A STEM Woman in the Commercial Construction Industry

My name is Alyssa ‘Monty’ Montague, and I’m a 26-year-old SharePoint Administrator at Hutton Construction, Inc. I grew up in a town called Normal, IL, which is about half the size of Chattanooga. I wanted to get out of the small town life, so for college, I moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College. It didn’t take long, ­­just six short years­, ­for me to tire of big city life. My long­term boyfriend and I decided to move to Chattanooga to be closer to his family. My mom and dad still live in Illinois, but they come to visit as often as they can.

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The Passion to Build Things – by Heidi Hefferlin

My family’s background is a mixture of American and Swiss. My father’s family is Swiss and German and includes: Bankers, Importers, Entrepreneurs and Ministers. My mother’s family are Dutch Mennonite farmers who immigrated to California and became peach and Almond farmers in the central valley. My parents moved to Tennessee just before I was born. My fathers was a physicist and taught for 34 years. My mom was a home economics graduate, raised four girls and worked as a church secretary and later at a credit union.

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Actuary what? – by Tamra Van Allen

I am Tamra VanAllen, Assistant VP & Pricing Actuary at Unum. When people ask me what I do, I say, “I’m an actuary” then I watch for their reaction. It typically goes one of two ways, either an excited “I know someone else who is an actuary” or I am met with a blank stare and awkward pause while they try to decide if it is even worth asking about.

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My Non-traditional STEM Journey – Sonya Reid

My African American family came from a small community in Eastern North Carolina. We were, and still are, a very close knit group. My overall inspiration comes from my mother, a strong woman, who supported me on my way to self development and discovery. With respect to STEM-related fields, I was inspired by my high school chemistry teacher, who did an excellent job of engaging her students. Additionally, my aunt, my Mom’s sister, taught Biology at my high school. Both my Chemistry teacher and my aunt pushed me to join extracurricular science activities because they saw that I had a natural affinity for science and math. Eventually, I was introduced to Chemical Engineering by a representative from the local DuPont Chemical plant who spoke to our HS physics class about his work as a Chemical Engineer during a Career Fair event.

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