Being a big fan of Byron and all things "Gothic" (I include all the great Romantic poets and painters along with those florid novelists like Charles Robert Maturin) I actually DID know who Ada Lovelace was after all, just not under that name, she was Byron's daughter and worked with Charles Babbage on the first "computer". I wish I'd known that part as a child, as there were precious few role model heroines growing up in the '70's. I suppose we had Germaine Greer, but she always seemed angry and had no dress sense (to my mind, sorry Germaine, I know you had weightier things on your mind). I realise that makes me sound like a shallow and vain creature but frankly I've never doubted that I was the equal of the men around me, I just wanted to enjoy my equality in well cut clothing... and I know plenty of daper men who feel just the same way!
The Byronic connection continues with my great childhood heroine, Mary Shelley. The author of "Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus". To have written such a novel at the age of 19 is a feat for any author, but for a woman in the early 1800's, when society in general merely expected her to be pretty and provide heirs for her husband, well, that still fills me with awe. At the time of writing she was already pregnant by the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley ("My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"), being his mistress, as he was already married.
Obviously, like most people I was led to read Frankenstein as a child after seeing Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, et al in the film versions and they really don't prepare you for just how complex and well written a tale it is or for just how eloquently the Creature relates his tale. It has a far better structure and grip on the imagination than that other gothic great, Bram Stoker's Dracula, for my money. She also wrote many other novels, including The Last Man, which is in some ways a precursor to "I am Legend", set in a future where the human race gradually dies out from plague. She also collected and edited the works of her late husband and is probably directly responsible for the fact that his poems are still well read. She led a relatively short, tragedy and scandal filled life of often near poverty, dying at the age of 53 (I think). The perfect gothic heroine in fact.
Here's Mary painted by Reginald Easton, I have to say that Ada wins the battle of the drapery though :o)