Today is Ada Lovelace Day, on which people are blogging about “unsung heroines,” the women who have all too frequently been erased from histories and representations of technology. There’s something paradoxical about this erasure, as women have been integral to the history of technology at least since the industrial revolution. As Marx points out, it was women whose conditions of work were first changed by the introduction of machinery into factories. Infinite thought mentions Shulamith Firestone as a women who thought about hwo this relationship to technology could liberate women; in this context, one could also mention Lucy Parsons. Like many anarchists, Parsons was a rationalist who thought that freedom was natural and, because the natural world was rationally knowable, science could be used to bring into reality that natural freedom:
Anarchism is the usher of science-the master of ceremonies to all forms of truth. It would remove all barriers between the human being and natural development. From the natural resources of the earth, all artificial restrictions, that the body might be nurtures, and from universal truth, all bars of prejudice and superstition, that the mind may develop symmetrically (“The Principles of Anarchism”).
Which is not to say that Parsons was only interested in science as a theoretical enterprise. Rather, she emphasized how technology changed the conditions of labor and resistance; including in some unconventional ways:
Each of you hungry tramps who read these lines, avail yourselves of those little methods of warfare which Science has placed in the hands of the poor man, and you will become a power in this or any other land.
Learn the use of explosives! (“To Tramps”).