Ada Lovelace: Computer Programmer

Augusta Ada Byron was born in London on 10th December 1815. She was the only child born during Lord George Gordon Byron and Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke Byron. Her parents separated just weeks after she was born, her father left England just a few months later and this would be the last time Ada ever saw her father. Her mother loved mathematics and made sure her daughter received tuition for maths and science. Soon Ada started showing a flair for Mathematics and Language. At age at 17 one of Ada’s tutors, Mary Sommerville, introduced her to Charles Babbage a Professor of Mathematics. Ada and Charles started to hit it off and became close lifelong friends.

Ada age 4

Ada age 4

In 1845 Babbage asked Ada to translate an Italian article that had been written about his machine the Analytical Engine. Ada not only translated the article but added her own notes, at Babbage’s request. In the end her piece ended up being three times the original length. Ada’s notes ended up being the most complete and elaborate to be made on the engine. In 1843 her work was publish in a science journal with Ada only using her initials as a pseudonym, it was also the first one out of any notes on the engine to be published.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

Babbage described Ada as an “Enchantress of Numbers” and her work has made her become considered as the first computer programmer.

At age 19 Ada married William King and three years later they became Ear and Countess of Lovelace, this is when she became known as Ada Lovelace. Ada and William had three children together and he supported his wife’s academic enterprises.

On 27th November 1852 Ada died at the age of 36 from uterine cancer.

Ada’s work was never fully discovered until after her death. Ada’s notes helped Alan Turning create the first modern computers almost 100 years later.

Lovelace, Ada 3


Finding Ada


Juliette Gordon Low: Founder



On 31 October 1860 Juliette Magil Kenzie was born to William Washington Gordon and Eleanor Kinzie Gordon. She was the second born of six children and was affectionately called Daisy by her family and friends.

Juliette was a happy and talented girl growing up in her home in Savannah, Georgia. Juliette loved listening to the stories her great-grandmother told her about being captured by native Americans. Juliette loved to help others, along with sisters and cousins she would organise sewing clubs with her cousins. Juliette was also well educated getting taught in some of the most prominent boarding schools.

On 21 December 1886, when Juliette was 26, she married William Mackay Low. When rice was throne over the couple at the wedding a piece got stuck in Juliette’s ear. When the piece of rice got removed her eardrum got pierced. This resulted in Juliette losing most of the hearing in that ear. Juliette and William divorced in 1901 after a long and bitter split.

Juliette with two other Girl Scouts

Whilst living in Scotland Juliette met Robert Braden-Powell at a party. Juliette was interested in trying to carry on the Girl Guides Group that Robert’s sister Agnes was starting. When she returned to America Juliette and her cousin started recruiting girls from influential families to be members and leaders. On 12 March 1912 Juliette’s niece, Margaret Gordon, was the first registered member if the first Girl Guides Troupe.

The Girl Guides movement spread fast and changed their name to the Girl Scouts. By 1916 there were over 7,000 members. And in 1919 there was the first meeting for the International Council of Girl Guides and Juliette was the representative for the United States.

In 1923 Juliette developed breast cancer, she kept it hidden so that she could carry on working for the Girl Scouts. At the age of 66 Juliette died on 17 January 1927. Juliette was buried wearing her Girl Scout uniform with a not in the pocket reading “You are not only the first Girl Scout, but the best Girl Scout of them all.”

Juliette in her uniform



Irena Sendler: Humanitarian


On 15th February 1910 Irena Krzyżanowska was born. Irena’s father died when she was 7 after he contracted typhus when he infected treated patients who other doctors refused to treat. Many of the patients Irena’s father treated were Jews because of this leaders of the Jewish community offered to help pay for Irena’s education which led to her studying Polish Literature at Warsaw University. In 1931 Irena married Mieczyslaw Sendler.

When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 Irena started to help the Jews. Between herself and a group of helper’s Irena managed to create of 3,000 false documents to help Jewish families. Irena did this even though she knew that if she was caught she would be killed. In 1943 Irena became the head of the children’s section of the Żegota: a secret organisation helping Jews in Nazi occupied Poland. Irena worked for social welfare in Poland so she was allowed to go into the Ghetto to check for signs of Typhus.

It was not long before Irena and her co-workers started to smuggle children out of the ghetto. They would use the preface of investigating Typhus outbreaks. Once the children were rescued they were placed with Polish families or in Roman Catholic orphanages. In this time Irena managed to smuggle about 2,500 children out of the ghettos.



However Irena was caught by the Gestapo and was tortured then sentenced to be executed. On the way to her execution members of the Żegota bribed officers to release her. They did but Irena’s name was still on the list of those executed so she had to live in hiding for the remainder of the war. But this didn’t stop her and she continued her work.

After the war Irena and her colleagues gave jars containing all the names of the children they rescued to the Żegota. The Central Committee of Polish Jews set out the task to try and reunite the families. But they soon found out that almost all of the parents of the children rescued were dead or missing.

In 1947 Irena got divorced and remarried to Stefan Zgrzembski. Stefan and Irena had three children, Janina, Andrzej and Adam, but they got divorced in 1959. In the 1960’s Irena married Mieczyslaw but they got divorced once more.

Irena with people she rescued as children in 2005. Irena is the woman on the far left in black.

Irena died on the 12 May 2008 in Warsaw aged 98.

Irena received numerous awards including:

  • Righteous Among the Nations
  • Commander’s Cross
  • Personal letter praising her wartime efforts by Pope John Paul II
  • Jan Karski Award
  • Order of the Smile
  • Nominated for a Nobel Prize
  • Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award

Irena on a coin with 2 Holocaust resisters Zofia Kossak-Szczucka and Matylda Getter




Irena Sendler Project

Jewish Virtual Library


Dorothea Lynde Dix: Social Reformer

Dorothea was a nurse by trade. But Dorothea was horrified by the way the mentally ill were treated. She fought on their before for better treatment. Through her hard effort Dorothea managed to create the first generation of American mental asylums.



Dorothea Lynde Dix was born 4th of April 1802 in Hampden, Maine, USA to Joseph Dix and Mary Bigelow. Dorothea grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts and was the eldest of three children, but her childhood was not a happy one. When Dorothea was just twelve she fled from her alcoholic family and abusive family to Boston to live with her wealthy grandmother.

In 1821 Dorothea opened a school patronised by well off families and soon she began teaching poor and neglected children in her home. But between 1824 and 1836 her health had been up and down. With hopes to find a cure for her ailing health Dorothea travelled to Liverpool, England. There Dorothea stayed with the Rathbone family, the Rathbone’s were known as social reformers. It was in Liverpool that Dorothea saw the British lunacy reform movement.

When Dorothea returned to America she conducted a state wide investigation to find out how the state of Massachusetts cared for the insane. Dorothea was appalled with what she found and in her report she stated “I proceed, Gentlemen, briefly to call your attention to the present state of Insane Persons confined within this Commonwealth, in cages, stalls, pens! Chained, naked, beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience.” Thanks to Dorothea the state’s mental asylum was expanded.


Dorothea went on investigating going to, New Hampshire, Louisiana and Illinois to find out what they did to help people suffering from mental illness. Like in Massachusetts the care was poor. But Dorothea managed to get the state to create the first mental asylum in Illinois. Dorothea carried on putting pressure on states to open the first mental asylums in their state. Because of her work many were built including one Raleigh, North Carolina, which named the hospital after her.

Dorothea carried on with her hard work and tried to get Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane passed. This bill would make states have to put aside so much land to care for the mentally ill. But President Franklin Pierce vetoed it. But Dorothea was not deterred; instead she travelled to Nova Scotia, Canada, to find out how she could help there.

During the American Civil War Dorothea was appointed Superintendent of Army Nurses. Dorothea often came into clashes with Doctors has she had strict guidelines on hiring and firing her nurses. All this was to stop vulnerable volunteer nurses being taken advantage of. All this caused Dorothea to become a figure head, but her influence was starting to fall with more women also becoming figureheads. So in 1865 Dorothea resigned.

Fountain in Dorothea’s memory

After the war Dorothea carried on campaigning for the mentally ill. However in 1881 Dorothea’s health had failed so much that she had moved into New Jersey State Hospital. Dorothea died on the 17th July1887.

Dix received many honours in her life such as having a WWII ship named after her. And the US postal stamp also created a stamp in her memory.



Rutka (Ruth) Laskier: Teenage Writer

Ruth was a young teenage girl caught up in the horrors of World War II. But through it all Ruth was positive and full of optimism.

Rutka "Ruth" Laskier

Rutka “Ruth” Laskier

 In 1929 Rutka “Ruth” Laskier was born in the Free City of Danzig, an independent city-state (now part of Poland). Ruth’s family were well off as her father, Jakub, was a banker and her grandfather was a co-owner of a milling company. But in the 1930’s the family moved to Będzin in Poland. In 1937 Jakub and Dorva (Ruth’s mother) gave birth to a little boy named Henius. In 1939 Hitler started moving his armies across eastern Europe heading towards Poland. During the war the Laskier’s were forced to move into a ghetto since they were Jewish.

 On the 19th January 1943 Ruth started chronicling for a Jewish teenager life under the Nazi rule in a diary. Ruth wrote in this diary without her parents knowledge and wrote in an ordinary school notebook. Ruth wrote occasional entries in a mix of pencil and ink. Ruth wrote about the horror stories of concentration camps that were spreading through the camp, she also wrote about the thing she witnessed the Nazi’s done. But it was not gloomy as Ruth also wrote about teenage crushes she had. Ruth’s diary begins with “I cannot grasp that it is already 1943, four years since this hell began.” While one of her last entries says: “If only I could say, it’s over, you die only once… But I can’t, because despite all these atrocities, I want to live, and wait for the following day.” Ruth’s diary ends on the 24 April 1943.

Rutka, Jakob, Dorva and Henius.

 It was believed that Ruth died the August of 1943 when she was sent to the gas chambers with Dorva and Henius. However in 2008 a fellow prisoner in Auschwitz, Zofia Minc revealed otherwise. Zofia said that Ruth caught cholera and Zofia was ordered to take Ruth to the crematorium. Ruth was still alive at the time and begged Zofia to take her over to the electric fence so she could commit suicide but the SS guard refused. Jakub was the only member of the Laskier family to survive.

When writing her diary Ruth believed she would not survive the war. She decided hid the diary and after the ghetto was evacuated a friend, Stanisława Sapińska, retrived the diary from were her and Ruth agreed to hide it. Ruth knew her diary was important as it documeted the horrors of life a Jew under Nazi rule. Stanisława kept it hidden at home until her nephew passed on a photocopy and it was published in 2006.

Rutka and Henius



Anne Askew: Martyr and Poet

Anne Askew is one of the earliest female poets to write in the English language and she was the first women to ever demand a divorce. But she is remembered even more as the only women to ever be tortured in the Tower of London and burnt at the stake.

Anne Askew

Anne Askew

Anne was born at Stallingborough, England in either 1520 or 1521. Not much is known about Anne’s early life except that Anne was a strong Protestant.  When Anne was about 15 her sister Martha died so her father instead forced Anne to marry Thomas Kyme, a man who was suppose to marry Martha.

Anne’s marriage was not a happy one; a marriage that was doomed from the outset. Anne immediately refused to take up her husband’s name. When Anne moved to London to speak out about her beliefs Thomas threw her out. Anne then asked for a divorce on the grounds that Thomas was not a believer. Anne eventually left her husband and went preaching about her beliefs in London using books that were banned.

Anne was arrested twice as heretic. The first time was in 1545 were they could find nothing to incriminate Anne with. The second time was in 1546 as a heretic. The constable of the tower was ordered to torture Anne to get her to name others. But throughout the process Anne named no one. King Henry VIII then sent Chancellor Wriothesley and Chancellor Rich to torture Anne until she named others. This second torture was even more brutal. It was said that many of Anne’s bones were dislocated and that her cries could be heared in the gardens next to the Tower Anne was in. Yet Anne refused to name anyone.

On the 16th July 1546 Anne was taken to Smithfield in London to be burnt at the stake. Anne had to be carried to her execution in a chair after the torture left her in so much pain that she couldn’t walk. Just before her death Anne was offered a pardon but refused. She was remarked as being brave as they burnt her. Anne died a martyr on the 16th July 1546 aged 26.

Anne Askew played by Emma Stansfield in season 4 of The Tudors



Lady Jane Grey: The Nine Day Queen

In his dying days King Edward VI is persuaded by his advisors to name his cousin, Lady Jane, as his heiress. The young Jane is thrust from her normal life to go from on top of the world to the first victim of Mary I’s reign. Lady Jane becomes the forgotten Queen of the Tudor era.  

Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey

In early 1937 Henry Grey the Duke of Suffolk and Lady Frances Brandon have a daughter.  Their daughter Jane was the great niece of Henry VIII and first cousin once removed to Edward VI. Lady Jane received a high education learning Italian, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. But a thing that proved to be crucial in Jane’s downfall was the fact that she was brought up a committed protestant. Jane was said to have enjoyed reading books rather than going out on hunting parties.

You Lady Jane at her home

In February 1547 Jane was sent to the house of the brother of the former Queen Jane Seymour, Thomas. Thomas was now married to Henry VIII’s last wife Catherine Parr. But Jane left in September 1548 when Catherine died in child birth.

Thomas Seymour was still interested in Jane and it was thought he wanted to marry Jane to his nephew Edward VI. Thomas was arrested and executed as he was feared to have too much control over the young King.

Jane was then married to Lord Guilford Dudley, a great match for Jane as her new father-in-law was the richest man in the country. It was a triple wedding were Jane’s to younger sisters were also married off.

Henry VIII brought in the Third Succession Act in 1544. This reinstated his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth as heirs to the throne after Edward. If Henry’s children all died childless then the throne would pass to his sister Mary Tudor and her descendants. One of the descendants was Lady Jane. Another part of the act meant that the law of succession could be changed by the King.

In 1553 the young King was dying childless meaning the throne would go to his half sister the catholic Mary. No one wanted a Catholic to rule Protestant England, so they searched for a Protestant Tudor to take the throne. Edward VI named Lady Jane as his heir.

On the 6th July 1553 Edward died, Jane was informed three days later that she was Queen. Although she was reluctant to accept the title she was officially announced Queen on the 10th July. Jane was then taken to the Tower of London to be kept in secure residence.

Mary was not happy about losing her inheritance and saw herself as rightful Queen of England. Mary travelled across the country gaining support along the way. The Privy Council changed their alligance from Jane to Mary. On 19th July Mary entered London and was received as Queen by the people, she then had Jane imprisoned in the Tower along with her husband, Lord Guilford Dudley.

Jane and Guilford were tried for high treason, both were found guilt and both were sentenced to death. But for Jane her sentence was to “be burned alive on Tower Hill or beheaded as the Queen pleases”. Jane’s execution was originally set for 9th February 1554, but it ended up being delayed for 3 days so that Jane could change to the Catholic faith.

On the morning of 12th February, Guilford was executed. Jane was executed later that day, she was 16 years old. Jane was buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula along with her husband.

Execution of Lady Jane

Jane is often forgotten about and most people do not count her as Queen of England as she was never crowned. After researching her I believe she should be remembered as a Queen. Most websites, books, films etc call her the Nine Day Queen, implying that although her reign was short she was Queen. On the government’s page about the royals Jane is listed under “English Monarchs (400 AD – 1603)” however she is listed as Lady Jane Grey rather than a Queen. To me Jane will be remembered as Queen of England, even f it was a short reign.