New Historical Marker to Recognize Work of Human Computers

An event celebrating a new historical marker in downtown Raleigh commemorating the women who worked as “human computers” for the U.S. space program and military will be held on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at 10:30 a.m. at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Meredith College alumnae are among the women whose work is recognized with this new marker.

The new marker is the result of efforts by students in Meredith’s Spring 2020 Public History course who conducted research to identify Meredith alumnae and other North Carolinians who worked in these fields. The students completed a formal proposal for these contributions to be recognized on a state highway historical marker. Public History courses are taught by Professor of History Dan Fountain.

Many women from North Carolina, including more than a dozen Meredith College alumnae served as “human computers” in support of the nation’s space program and national defense during World War II and the Cold War. 

On the day of the unveiling, a panel discussion will be held at the museum. Featured on the panel will be Meredith Associate Professor of History Angela Robbins, chair of the Department of History, Political Science, and International Studies. She will be joined by UNC Greensboro Archivist Erin Lawrimore, Museum of Natural Sciences staff member Rachel Smith of the Museum of Natural Sciences, and NC Highway Historical Marker Program Director Leslie Leonard.  

Meredith graduates served as computers, aerospace technologists, and computer programmers for NACA, NASA, the Naval Weapons Laboratory, and the Aeronautical Testing Laboratory at Langley and Dahlgren Airfields in Virginia as well as at the US Navy Surface Warfare Center at Panama City, Florida. 

The following alumnae have been identified by Meredith researchers as having worked as computers or in related fields from the 1940s through the early 1960s.

  • Betty Lou Anderson, ’42; Langley
  • Rowena Daniel Becker, ’42; assistant computer, Langley
  • Margaret Leach Block, ’51; NACA 1951-56
  • Geraldine “Jerry” Couch, ’43; Langley
  • Jane Kathleen Simmons Edwards, ’61; Naval Weapons Laboratory, Dahlgren, VA
  • Christina Davis Forte, ’67; Research Triangle Institute & Langley Research Center
  • Elizabeth Garner, ’42; assistant computer, Langley
  • Faye Autry Jackson, ’65; US Navy Surface Warfare Center, Panama City, FL
  • Linda Motsinger Keiner, ’62; Mathematician Naval Weapons Laboratory, Dahlgren, VA
  • Janice Long, ’62; Aero Space Technologist, Langley
  • Jean Parrish Mason, ’52; computer, NACA
  • Mary Matthews, ’44; accountant, Langley
  • Mary Catherine Cole Metters, ’57; National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics; 
  • Wilma Owens ’57; Aeronautical Testing Laboratory, Langley
  • Janet Puckett, ’62; Aero Space Technologist, Langley
  • Ann Quay, ’57; Aeronautical Testing Laboratory, Langley
  • Harriette Ann Seals, ’59; mathematician, Langley
  • Mary Ann Canady Simms, ’42; assistant computer, Langley

Historical information included in this article was originally published in “Meredith’s Own Hidden Figures,” by Professor of History Dan Fountain, which ran in the Spring 2020 issue of Meredith Magazine.

Melyssa Allen

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