Author Archive - The History Chicks

Episode 103: Ada Lovelace

Posted 17 March 2018 by
Tagged As: , , , , , , | Categories: Episode, Podcasts | Leave a Comment


Countess Ada Lovelace’s mind was extraordinary in the truest sense, truthfully there was very little that was ordinary about her. She was the only legitimate daughter of the poet, Lord Byron and his only wife, Annabella (the 11th Baroness Wentworth thankyouverymuch.) She never met her wild and wildly popular father, was raised by a mother who protected her from the fame-by-association that came with having that kind of parent, educated in a manner that most girls of the time never experienced and, eventually, used that education along with her logical and creative brain to write the world’s first computer program.

Ada, age 17. Wikicommons

Not too bad for a woman raised in the mid-1800s and who only lived to 36.

We cover everything in her life from her parents, her upbringing, her education, marriage, children, her desire to have a mathematical career and her partnership with Charles Babbage, a man who had that kind of career. Babbage had invented and built an Analytical Machine (well 1/7th of it, anyway) that Ada understood so well that she translated a paper on it (from French) and then annotated that translation to give future applications for the machine, improvements upon it and an algorithm to figure a mathematical equation with it. That published  paper sealed her into history as the world’s first computer programer.

Jacquard loom, the inspiration for Babbage’s machine. wikicommons


Analytical Machine Britannica

The end of her life and her death from uterine and cervical cancer was painful and tragic, but her name lives on in a computer language and her spirit is in every single computer program written.

Here is a sample of code in the Ada language:

Why “Hello, world!”? This from our friend, J.D. Thomas:

In case you are not familiar with the “Hello, World!” trope, here is some background. The very first thing anyone learns in a new programming language is how to write a program that outputs “Hello, World!” This is just a thing*. It has been a thing for years. It makes since since one of the first things a programmer needs to know is how to make the program tell you the results of its work and this task does that. This is the simplest “Hello, World!” code for ADA. * While small test programs have existed since the development of programmable computers, the tradition of using the phrase “Hello, world!” as a test message was influenced by an example program in the seminal book “The C Programming Language.” The example program from that book prints “hello, world” (without capital letters or exclamation mark), and was inherited from a 1974 Bell Laboratories internal memorandum by Brian Kernighan, “Programming in C. A Tutorial.”


Time Travel with The History Chicks


Let’s start with kid’s books:

For bedtime reading


For the chapter book set



Perfect for gifting!


Also perfect for gifting!









It’s love.


The mothership of Ada sites is connected with Ada Lovelace day, the second Tuesday in October. There is a lot of information on this site about Ada and other women of STEM! And to support the efforts of the organizers, here is their Patreon account.

New York Times obit gets lot of History Chicks points for starting this new feature, Overlooked, and adding the obituaries of women who were, well, overlooked. Ada is one of the first batch of entries.

The origins of Steampunk from the well named website, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurances.

BBC4 has an Ada documentary that you may be able to set your DVR to record, Calculating Ada: The Countess of Computing.

More information on Babbage’s never built during his lifetime Difference Engine


If you find yourself in the UK, the National Museum of Computing on the Bletchly Park Estate. Even if you can only cyber visit, the website has lots of pictures.

You can visit the ancestral home of Lord Byron, Newstead Abbey, and you can rent the adorable Gardener’s Cottage (and take us with you.) (Thanks.)


End music courtesy of The Deedle Deedle Dees, Ada Lovelace from their album, Sing Along History Vol II.

Episode 102: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Part Two

Posted 25 February 2018 by
Tagged As: , , , , | Categories: Episode, Podcasts | Comments Off on Episode 102: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Part Two

When we last left Jackie, she was about to set off for a political appearance with her husband to Texas in 1963. This episode covers what happened on that trip, and how she handled her grief and lived her life until her death on May 19, 1994. We really saw three different versions of Jackie in this episode: The Widow, The Mrs. Onassis, The Happy Jackie… and we cover all of them.

The most tragically iconic suit. Dallas, Texas November 22, 1963


Jackie and her children had to establish a new life.

We had such a long list of media, our book stacks (and subsequent library late fines) were larger than we’ve ever had before, so we’re just going to focus on all of our recommendations and links here.


The National First Ladies Library and Museum in Canton, OH (someone should go and report back to us) has both a physical and a cyber presence, as does the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

JFK Presidential Library and Museum, Boston MA

Audio of Boston Symphony conductor informing audience of assassination on VIMEO and then symphony playing the funeral march from Beethoven’s Third Symphony on November 22, 1963.

Jackie addressed the nation not long after her husband’s assassination, this is the raw footage from that television appearance:


We both think that watching this, listening to part of the hours and hours of recordings that she made shortly after the President’s death is a really important element of understanding her. Settle back for an hour and listen to Jackie in her own words.


Want a peek into Jackie’s New York apartment and a video about her time there? Check out this Untapped Cities article and this Vanity Fair video.

Our friends, The Bowery Boys, recently covered the rescue of Grand Central Station and not only talk about Jackie’s involvement but interview someone who worked with her on the project! The Bowery Boys New York History #255


We had a lot of books that we liked and we pared those down to our favorites listed here, but if you are only going to read a couple we strongly recommend these two:

Collection of 250 letters selected from the over 1.5 million received during the first year after JFK’s death. It’s not only very touching but it gives good insight into the way the public felt about Jackie.


We both had this as our favorite biography–that rarely happens!

Bonus one we both liked for the kids:

And we both loved this kids’ book!

More biographies:

By Donald Spoto


This is the very thick, very detailed one by C. David Heyman

Coffee table books:

Susan liked this one about Jackie’s life as an equestrian


If you happen to be digging through old People Magazines, you might like to read this one. John Kennedy, Jr, Sexiest Man 1988


There have been several movies with and about Jackie, but the only one we really care about is this one:

Jackie starring Natalie Portman

And there are many documentaries. This one is on Netflix now (February, 2018) and is a good look at both Jackie and her sister, Lee who is still living an interesting life.

Currently on Netflix

Episode 101: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Part One

Posted 9 February 2018 by
Tagged As: , , , , | Categories: Episode, Podcasts | Comments Off on Episode 101: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Part One


Only the most iconic of women can simply go by one name, and Jackie is one of them. Her life was a complicated collage of privilege, challenge, balance and reinvention. In this episode, we talk about the first half of that life from baby of affluence born exactly when the wealth of the US crashed, to just before she headed off on a trip with her husband to Texas in 1963.


Episode 100: A Celebration!

Posted 17 January 2018 by
Tagged As: | Categories: Episode, Podcasts | Comments Off on Episode 100: A Celebration!

We’re celebrating our 100th full-length episode and our 7th year by pulling back the curtain and taking a look at some women and moments that we will never forget.


Episode 99: Pocahontas

Posted 23 December 2017 by
Tagged As: , , , , | Categories: Episode, Podcasts | Comments Off on Episode 99: Pocahontas



The only image of her done in her lifetime and this was close to the end of it. Marketing materials of the Virginia Company

The story of Pocahontas is legendary: Native American Princess saves early English settler’s life, they fall in love, she thinks he dies so she moves in with the English, converts to Christianity and marries another Englishman only to learn her original love was still alive. Pocahontas. Captain John Smith. Ring any bells? But do the bells in that story ring true? At all?

Did she really save John Smith from being murdered? Photo: U.S. Capital building, Architect of the Capital

Pocahontas was a young Powhatan who was instrumental in the survival of the earliest English colonists and did live with them, but “princess”? Not exactly.

“Young woman?” How about little kid?

“Love with Captain John Smith?” Friendship, yes, love…not so much.

“Moves in with English?” Try imprisoned. “Pocahontas” wasn’t even always her name, she had several: Amonute, Matoake and Rebecca. “Pocahontas” was a nickname.

And that “colonist” thing? Let’s use “emigrant,” shall we? The English didn’t discover the land around the modern Chesapeake Bay on the eastern shores of the current United States, that land was already home to a very large nation of native American tribes all governed under the umbrella of the Powhatan Chiefdom and led by the Paramount Chief–the English stole it. Heck, they weren’t even the first Europeans to land in the area, the Spanish beat them by decades.

First English map of the area, by John Smith

Pocahontas was the daughter of that chief. When she was about 11, John Smith and friends landed in her backyard and never left. In this episode we give you all the sides to that story from her birth up, through her imprisonment by the English, marriage to John Rolfe, influence on the economic home-run that was Virginia tobacco…all the way until her early death at the age of 21 when she was on tour in England.




Oral history of the Mattaponi Reservation People, one of the tribes in the Powhatan Chiefdom




Paula Gunn Allen a more spiritual look at her life


YA by Gail Fay




If you feel you must (and go in knowing the real story)

1995 Disney “White men are dangerous.”


Straight to video (and best seen at fast forwarded speed)


2005, lovely to look at (the dressing in English clothing scene is probably pretty spot on) but…argh, why must there be a romance??


The diet of the early British settlers in the Powhatan territories was very limited…and ghastly. Smithsonian article about cannibalized girl, the Powhatan Chiefdom, and more about life in general for the Jamestown settlers.

Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia have a lot of of early American historical activity waiting for you (and don’t forget to #historychicksfieldtrip on Instagram):

Historic Jamestown

Jamestown settlement living history museum

Visit Williamsburg

You wouldn’t have to travel much farther to get to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington or New York City.

And you could travel and travel and travel but you wouldn’t be able to get to the National Women’s History Museum because, well, it doesn’t exist…yet. Read about the efforts and how you can play a part in helping to establish this very important museum in Washington, D.C. as well as some great articles about women that need to be remembered.  National Women’s History Museum


It’s a little cheesy, but kids might like this Virginia Department of Education video about the 11 currently recognized Virginia Indian tribes.


And, in closing, we leave you with the only good song from Disney’s Pocahontas…

Episode 98: Coco Chanel

Posted 5 December 2017 by
Tagged As: , , , , | Categories: Episode, Podcasts | Comments Off on Episode 98: Coco Chanel

Gabrielle Chanel wasn’t born into the type of wealth she would earn or life she would live; she created everything she had from her signature look, scents, fortune, reputation, and image–good or bad.


Episode 97: Queen Lili’uokalani

Posted 11 November 2017 by
Tagged As: , , , , , | Categories: Episode, Podcasts | Comments Off on Episode 97: Queen Lili’uokalani

She was the first Queen to rule and the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, but Queen Lili’uokalani’s story is the story of Hawaii.

Lili’uokalani at Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 (via Wikicommons)

Lili’u Loloku Walania Kamakaeha was born on September 2, 1838. She was given an English name at her baptism, Lydia (which we never used in the podcast) and raised in a Hawaiian tradition called hanai, a sort of adoption, by Abner Paki and his wife, Laura Konia. Hawaii, at Lydia’s birth and for most of her life, was an independent nation, with a legislative government, a constitution, laws, a system of land ownership and Lili’u was a part of the ruling class. (more…)

Episode 96: Sojourner Truth

Posted 22 October 2017 by
Tagged As: , , , , , , | Categories: Episode, Podcasts | Comments Off on Episode 96: Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was a slave, a mother, a freewoman, a preacher, a speaker and an activist at a time in US history that was full of change but also full of obstacles for a woman who was any of those things.


Episode 95: Hypatia of Alexandria

Posted 30 September 2017 by
Tagged As: , , , , , , | Categories: Episode, Podcasts | Comments Off on Episode 95: Hypatia of Alexandria

Yeah, your guess is a good as the illustrator’s here. No one knows what she looked like. wikicommons

Hypatia of Alexandria was a scholar, teacher, mathematician, philosopher and astronomer. She was the daughter of another intellectual, Theon of Alexandria, lived in the waning years of the Roman Empire and died in 415 A.D…and the rest of the details of her life are a bit sketchy. They had to be puzzled together from the writings of others that reference her and a lot of puzzle pieces are still missing. (more…)

Episode 94: Wallis Simpson, Part Two

Posted 10 September 2017 by
Tagged As: , , | Categories: Episode, Podcasts | Comments Off on Episode 94: Wallis Simpson, Part Two

When we left Wallis in 1936, her boyfriend just got a major promotion that would, more than likely, leave her in the rear view mirror of his life. She was cool with that, but he had a whole different vision: Wallis in the passenger seat.

While on a cruise of the Dalmatian coast they were photographed…a lot.