Proving Ground: The Untold Story of the Six Women Who Programmed the World’s First Modern Computer

Wednesday, September 7, 2022, 6:30 - 7:30pm

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Proving Ground

After the end of World War II, top-secret research continued across the United States as engineers and programmers rushed to complete their confidential assignments. Among them were six pioneering women, tasked with figuring out how to program the world’s first general-purpose, programmable, all-electronic computer, even though there was no instruction codes or programming languages in existence. But their story, never told to the reporters and scientists who thronged the huge computer after it became public, was lost.

Join author, documentarian, and professor of law, Kathy Kleiman for a screening of her award-winning documentary, "The Computers: The Remarkable Story of the ENIAC Programmers", and a discussion of her related new book, Proving Ground, that brings these women back to life, and back into the historical record. For more than two decades, Kleiman met with four of the original six ENIAC Programmers, pored over documentation and images, and recorded extensive oral histories with the women about their work. As the tech world continues to struggle with gender imbalance and its far-reaching consequences, the story of the ENIAC Programmers’ groundbreaking work is more urgently necessary than ever before. The Strand will sell books at the event.

Attendees are required to show proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination and booster and must wear a CDC-recommended mask (disposable surgical, KN95, KF94, or N95) while indoors. Cloth masks alone are not permitted, but may be worn as a second layer over a disposable surgical mask.

Kathy Kleiman is a leader in Internet law and policy and currently teaches at American University Washington College of Law. Her research interests include Internet governance, development of private multi-stakeholder models for global technology policy, protection of intellectual property and free speech online, cross-border data flows and privacy laws, clinical education, ethics and artificial intelligence. Her passion for finding the truth behind these female programmers led to her founding the ENIAC Programmers Project.  


Located in the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, at 41 Cooper Square (on Third Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets)

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.