Winifred "Wink" Jonas of Webster Village near Havre de Grace has the distinction of being the first mathematician at Aberdeen Proving Ground to work with the world's first practical computer.
In recognition of her accomplishments and her contributions to a special mission, Jonas was one two pioneering women – the other an assistant secretary of the Army – who spoke to a rapt audience about overcoming gender inequality during the Women in Bloom ceremony at APG March 23.
The ceremony was held in honor of APG women's achievements in research, science, mathematics and technology and was highlighted by the dedication of the Women's Research and Development Memorial Garden outside Garrison Headquarters, Building 305.
"For future generations [the garden] will stand testament to women's outstanding intellectual achievements since the founding of this post in 1917," said Katherine Hammack, who is the primary advisor to the Secretary of the Army and chief of staff of the Army on all matters related to installation policy, oversight and coordination of energy security and management.
Hammack and Jonas both spoke at the ceremony dedicating the memorial garden.
Worked with ENIAC
Jonas was the first APG mathematician to work on the ENIAC - the worlds' first electronic digital computer created jointly by APG engineers and the University of Pennsylvania. The ENIAC was developed by Army Ordnance to compute World War II ballistic firing tables and was a significant contribution in winning the war.
The 87-year-old Jonas was accompanied by her husband Herbert, a Ballistics Research Lab retiree. She shared her story of her road to APG and inclusion in the historic ENIAC project starting with her graduation from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., in 1946.
She said the women of the ENIAC worked as programmers and operators, coordinating with electrical engineers to troubleshoot problems.
"This required a basic knowledge of the machine, the wiring and operation and the accompanying IBM equipment," she said, adding that the ENIAC operated three shifts, six and sometimes seven days a week.
She said women like her supervisor, Dr. Dorrit Hoffleit, were classified as "sub-professionals" regardless of their education or experience, while men with similar credentials were deemed "professionals" and paid better.
"Dr. Hoffleit refused to work for BRL until all women got a "P" rating," she said. "All white women, that is. Tragically, black women did not gain this status until a decade later."
Twenty-five years after resigning from BRL, Jonas returned to APG as a mainframe systems manager, retiring again in 1987. She later taught science and math at Harford Day School in Bel Air. Two former students, Randy Coates and Lee Magness, are supervisors at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the former BRL.
"When I worked at BRL and programmed for the ENIAC it was a busy, interesting time," Jonas said. "We did not have any perception that computers would become the powerful tools and aids that they have become and that we were on the cutting edge of the growth.
She said she was "thrilled to see our work recognized here today" by the Women in Bloom memorial.
A crucial role
Referring to the Women's History Month theme, "Women's Education - Women's Empowerment," Hammack said the fight to learn has spanned years and cultures and that although women now outnumber men in American colleges, "the reversal of the gender gap is a very recent phenomenon."
"Women continue to have a crucial role in the War on Terrorism and their sacrifices in this noble effort underscore their dedication and willingness to share great sacrifices," she said.
"The project before me, 'Women in Bloom,' pays tribute to those women. I look forward to seeing this memorial in bloom during future trips to APG, and I hope that everyone who passes by this monument takes a moment to reflect on the contributions women have made to our national defense," she said.
"What better place to have this memorial than Aberdeen Proving Ground - the home of research, development, test and evaluation for the Army, and home to many 'top secret Rosies' such as Mrs. Jonas," Hammack said.
During the ceremony Maj. Gen. Genaro Dellarocco, commander of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, presented plaques to both Hammack and Jonas.
APG Garrison Commander Col. Orlando Ortiz thanked attendees for helping the installation celebrate the scientific contributions of women of the past, the leadership of women of the present and the promise of women of the future.
"Today is a celebration of women and their impact on our nation," he said, noting that APG continues to benefit from women's vital contributions in research and science.
Ortiz also said that unlike the well known Rosie the Riveters, who took on men's jobs during World War II, the women of the ENIAC project were instead "Top Secret Rosies;" pioneers and trailblazers who went unrecognized because of their gender.
He said although women who served as ENIAC programmers were essential to the war effort, their contributions were relatively unknown.
"Without their service and sacrifice we would not have prevailed," he said.
The program concluded with the unveiling of the monument by Dellarocco, Ortiz, Hammack and Jonas. The monument, located on the garrison headquarters grounds, reads: "Dedicated to the women of Aberdeen Proving Ground whose vital contributions in research, science and technology have advanced our national defense. A grateful nation honors your outstanding achievements."
Attendees included members of the Senior Executive Service, Harford County government and community leaders and Justin Hayes, project director representing Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski. ATEC civilian employee Courtney Payne sang the national anthem and Garrison Chaplain Maj. Fred Townsend delivered the invocation.
Terri Kaltenbacher, garrison public affairs specialist and the program's master of ceremonies, welcomed guests on behalf of Maj. Gen. Robert Ferrell, senior commander of APG and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Special attendees included former APG Commander Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, now serving as the special assistant to the military deputy/director, Army Acquisitions Corps, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
Kaltenbacher thanked Team APG and Harford County partners in making the project a success and lauded younger women like the Freestate ChalleNGe cadets and the students of the Aberdeen High School Science and Mathematics Academy for paying tribute to the female role models who blazed the trail before them.
Kaltenbacher and Dr. Deidre DeRoia of the garrison's Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division partnered on the project which is the first monument of its kind in the Army. DeRoia designed the garden using more than 200 native plants that will attract pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies.
The Women's R&D Memorial Garden is the product of a National Environmental Education Foundation grant through the Department of Defense Legacy Program for National Public Lands Day.