January Dates in Women's History
by Susan G. Butruille
With another turn of the wheel of time, we look forward to the New Year as we look back on the Old Year.
January 1 is the feast day of Anna Perenna, “Giver of Life, Health, and Abundance.”
Anne, Anna, or Jana, the Grandmother of Time, was the most ancient of deities. Romans knew her as Anna Perenna, the goddess of two faces who looked both forward to the future and backward to the past. Anna Purna, the famous mountain of the Himalayas, bears her name. Anna Perenna, Alpha and Omega, was replaced by the Roman god Janus, god of gateways, also depicted as looking forward and backward.
The forward- and backward-looking Jana or Janus figure has been with us throughout history. We see her in images as far apart as the double-headed eagle of the Anatolian Seljuks, and a small two-faced stone figure carved by ancient people of the Columbia River.
A good resolution for this New Year is to remember our past while taking action to dream our own future as individuals and as citizens of the universe. There is no finer individual to remember than Grace Hopper, a woman of our past who changed our way of life now and for the future. For Dr. Hopper made it possible for ordinary people like us to communicate via computer.
Born in 1906, Grace Murray Hopper was teaching mathematics and physics at Vassar by the time she was 22. When she earned her Ph.D. from Yale at age 28, she was used to being a pioneer among women.
Dr. Hopper was both thinker and tinkerer. In service to the US Navy in the reserves and on active duty, and as a university teacher and business consultant, she delved into this thing called a computer and wondered what made it tick and how it could be of use to ordinary people. At the dawn of the computer age, most computer scientists believed that no one outside their field would ever understand computers. But Grace Hopper stubbornly clung to her belief that a computer programming language could be developed that ordinary people could understand and use.
And so, Grace Hopper led the research that would form the foundation for what we now know as Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL). Through COBOL, we are now able to process words, ideas and numbers through the computer. Much of the information for this article came from the internet that Grace Hopper worked to make accessible. Who knows what the future of Grace Hopper's people-friendly computer langauge will bring?
Throughout her military and private industry career, Grace Murray Hopper won wide recognition. The Data Processing Management Association gave her the first ever Computer Science "Man"-of-the-Year Award in 1969. She became the first North American and first woman to be named a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society. When she retired from the US Navy at the age of 80, Grace Hopper was a Rear Admiral. In September, 2000, she was honored at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Though she had no children of her own, Admiral Hopper regarded as her greatest contribution "all the young people I've trained."
In 1992 on January 1, feast day of Anna Perenna, the Grandmother of Time whose gaze encircles future and past, Grace Murray Hopper died. The woman known as the Mother of the Computer was 86 years old.
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