Female Computers

Three Constellations

Created for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN by Lily Hibberd, Din Heagney and Toner Stevenson, Female Computers presents the gendered history of the cosmos through three constellations: Female Labour, Gendered Stars and Unbounded Seeing.

This project was supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Female Computers

Invisible Stars

Lily Hibberd 2020

Constellation One

Female Labour

We begin with Female Labour where we learn of the countless women who have contributed to astronomy. Central to this constellation are the female computers who worked in over 20 observatories around the world from the mid-1800s to create a catalogue and map of 6.5 million stars. Thought of as mere calculators their labour was overlooked at the time and then forgotten when the mapping effort was abandoned 100 years later.

Postcards by Lily Hibberd (LH), Din Heagney (DH) and Toner Stevenson (TS).

Photograph of Sydney Observatory computer Winsome Bellamy with the Hilger astrographic plate measuring machine c1954. Photographer unknown. With permission of Museum of Applied Arts and Science.


The Women Star Computers

by Toner Stevenson & Lily Hibberd 2020

additional narration by Julie-Ann Robson

Constellation Two

Gendered Stars

In Gendered Stars we encounter stories about our Universe to find they are based on patriarchal myths. But there are other systems and alternate gender tales to tell.

Postcards by Lily Hibberd (LH),  Din Heagney (DH) and Toner Stevenson (TS).

In Hindu astrology the planet Venus शुक्र Śukra (Shukra) is a feminine and gentle man associated with fertility beauty and enthusiasm. Unknown artist. Public Domain.

Constellation Three

Unbounded Seeing

In Unbounded Seeing the myth of the all-seeing male astronomer is questioned as we learn of women around the world who are unbounding astronomy.

Postcards by Lily Hibberd (LH),  Din Heagney (DH) and Toner Stevenson (TS).

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, dressed as StarTreks' Captain Janeway. Source Wikimedia/NASA. Public Domain.

Cosmos Projects