Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? The Story of Ada Lovelace

Written by: Tanya Lee Stone

Illustrated by: Marjorie Priceman

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Women in STEM, Historical Figures, Women in Science, Feminism, Bravery, Courage, Individuality.

Summary: Ada was a young girl who lived in the English countryside.  She had a wild imagination and a mother who thought a wild imagination was dangerous.  Ada’s father was the famous poet, Lord Byron.  Ada’s mother was fed up with Lord Byron’s wild behavior, and moved home to her parents house when Ada was 5 weeks old.  Ada never saw her father again, because he fled England owning large sums of money.  Ada’s mother wanted Ada to have a brain like a mathematician, not a wild imagination.  She had tutors that taught her every subject, and she loved music in addition to math, drawing, and singing.  When Ada was 12, she became obsessed with inventing a flying horse with bird wings, and asked her mother for bird-drawing books.  Ada’s mother made her study math for longer hours everyday instead;  she also wanted Ada to get married to a suitable man.  Ada was presented to the king and queen when she was 18, but was not interested in solely becoming a housewife.  Ada became fascinated with the scientists Charles Babbage, and his inventions.  She began to visit with him, and became enchanted with his number calculation machines he was building.  Ada realized that math and imagination could work together, unlike what he mother tried so desperately to teach her.  Ada and Charles became good friends, and often wrote letters and visited each other, walking about math and philosophy together.  Charles was busy trying to build a calculation device that could solve any problem, called the Analytical Engine.  He was trying to base it off a loom that used punchcards to design what the woven design would be.  He didn’t know how the loom worked, but Ada did.  Ada was also able to help translate scientific papers written in French, and Charles encouraged Ada to write her own papers.  She was thrilled at the idea, women in her time did not become scientists and write papers!  Although she was often ill, she worked very hard and wrote many letters to Charles.  When she finished the paper, it turned out to be very long and a huge success!  Ada had a brain that could imagine mathematical processing that had not been discovered yet.  Charles was never able to build his machine, but if he did the entire world of computer programming history could be different from what it is today.  A huge contribution would have been Ada’s work, with her wild imagination!

In the back, there is also more historical information about Ada’s life.  An important scientific contributor that is relatively unknown by most, this is a great book!

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Ada felt when her mother tried to stifle her imagination?
  • How do you think she felt when Charles encouraged her to pursue her passions?
  • What do you think Ada would think about computers today?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about basic computer coding.  There are tons of websites that teach coding skills to kids, and introductory courses with robots.  Ada would be proud!
  • Lots of other famous names are mentioned in the story.  Pick one out and learn more about them!  Charles Darwin, Lord Byron, who are you interested in learning about?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

916WD-xjo1L._UX250_Tanya Lee Stone is best known for telling little-known or unknown stories of women and people of color. She writes MG/YA narrative nonfiction such as Girl Rising, Almost Astronauts and Courage Has No Color, and nonfiction picture books such as Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? and The House that Jane Built. Her work has been recognized by the NAACP Image Award, Robert F. Sibert Medal, Golden Kite Award, Bank Street Flora Straus Steiglitz Award, Jane Addams Honor, YALSA Nonfiction Finalist, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, NPR Best Books, and NCTE Orbis Pictus Honors. She is also the author of the YA verse novel, A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, which was a Top Ten Banned Book. Stone studied English at Oberlin College, later earned a Masters Degree, and was an editor of children’s nonfiction for many years before becoming a writer. She teaches writing at Champlain College. Forthcoming books include A Story of War, A Story of Peace, Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? and Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented.

marjorie-priceman-1536996Marjorie Priceman, illustrator of many acclaimed picture books, has won Caldecott Honors for her illustrations in Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin! by Lloyd Moss and Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the Frist Hot-Air Balloon Ride, which she also wrote. She lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

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