Tech Women: Meet ENIAC Programmer Frances V Spence

Frances V. Spence

Frances V. Spence was one of the first computer programmers in history. She was entrusted with the onus of programming ENIAC – the first general purpose computer. Interestingly, she was given the name, ”Computer” for working on ENIAC.

She was born in Philadelphia in 1922. Both her parents worked in the education sector.

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She did her schooling from the South Philadelphia High School for Girls and graduated in 1938. After attending Temple University for a while, she switched to Chestnut Hill College to pursue Mathematics after being awarded a scholarship.She graduated in 1942.

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Personal life

In 1947, she married Homer W. Spence. He was an Army electrical engineer from the Aberdeen Proving Grounds who had been assigned to the ENIAC project. He later became head of the Computer Research Branch.

After working for a few years for ENIAC, she resigned to devote more time to her family.

She had three sons — Joseph, Richard, and William. She died in 2012.

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While it is a well-known fact that all original programmers of ENIAC were women, they didn’t get any credit at the time because of people’s assumption and stereotypical mindset that women do not have any sort of inclination towards technology

This is a major reason why the notion of women and computing not going hand in hand got popularized. Unfortunately, the repercussions of this are felt in the contemporary era.

It was in 1997 that Frances was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame along with the other original ENIAC programmers.

She died in 2012. She, along with her comrades, is the inspiration behind the award-winning 2013 documentary ‘The Computers’, that was created to honour them.

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