By Marian Mangoubi
Grace Hopper was a Math Professor at Vassar whose life changed when Pearl Harbor was attacked, marking the US’ entrance into WWII. At the time, the US military did not have enough soldiers to fight the war. So the Navy created the Women’s Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) program to recruit women to join the military. Grace’s family had a long, illustrious career in the military, and she wanted to continue that tradition. So when the Navy came calling, she joined and was assigned to a secret project. Little did she know how that assignment would put her at the forefront of a new industry – computers.
One of Grace’s accomplishments, while building the industry, was leading the development of COBOL, the first user-friendly computer programming language to use every day words and, with the help of a compiler, translates them into machine language (0s and 1s). Many governments and corporations around the world still rely on this 50+ year old computer language. In fact, you even rely on it yourself without realizing it. Cobol functions in the background whenever you use an ATM, buy something online, book a flight, stop at a traffic light, etc.
Women, like Grace, have always played an instrumental role in shaping governments and industries throughout history. Many times, though, history often fails to recognize their accomplishments and contributions. This has a detrimental impact on girls because they lack necessary role models they can look to and try to emulate. The last few years have seen a growing discussion about the lack of women in technology. But, without role models to emulate, it’s hard to be what you can’t see. So how do you change the dynamic? One way is through the media.
Working off this premise, two tech-loving filmmakers, Melissa Pierce and Marian Mangoubi, decided it was time to write women back into computer history. To do this, they decided to show young girls and women a role model in tech that they could relate to, one who played an important role in the birth and growth of the computer industry. Thus, Born with Curiosity: The Grace Hopper Story.
Pierce’s and Mangoubi’s biographical documentary, Born with Curiosity: The Grace Hopper Story, focuses on US Navy Rear Admiral and computer pioneer, Grace Hopper’s secretive and sometimes messy personal life juxtaposed against the cultural century and the evolution of women’s roles in American society.
“Our goal is to show the impact Grace had on the history of computer programming while also raising awareness of women’s contributions to the computer industry”, said Producer/Director/Screenwriter, Pierce.
When asked why do the documentary now, Mangoubi said “given the outcry about the lack of women in tech, now was a good time to remind the world that women actually played an integral role in the building the foundation of the industry”.
To learn more about Born With Curiosity: The Grace Hopper Story and contribute to their work, check out this Indiegogo Campaign!
Melissa Pierce (Director, Producer, and Screenwriter) stepped down from her role as COO of Everpurse Inc. to pursue the making of Born with Curiosity – the Grace Hopper Story, she retains a board seat at Everpurse. She is also the Executive Director of Chicago Women Developers NFP which supports women in and interested in computer programming. Melissa’s first documentary film, Life in Perpetual Beta (2010) examined how current technologies change human behavior. It was premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2010 and won an award for merit at Hollywood Los Angeles Film Festival in 2011.
Marian Mangoubi (Producer, Screenwriter, and Researcher) uses her voice via social media to raise the profile of many women leaders in the world who go unrecognized. Marian can also be found writing scripts, novels, and short stories as well as working on several film and television productions.