Notable Wireless Women

Here are few notable women who are or were in wireless or wireless-related industries

(There are many, many more; we name but a few here)


Kay Craigie, N3KN, was the president of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) for three terms, from 2010 to 2016. The ARRL is the world’s largest organization devoted entirely to amateur radio, and it was founded in 1914.  Craigie was president during the ARRL’s Centennial celebration.  Ms. Craigie began her service to the ARRL in 1986, serving as a regional director.2


Joan Curran was a British physicist in the 1930s and 40s.  She completed all her course work for an honors degree in physics at Cambridge University, but it was not awarded because at the time it was felt by British academia that a woman did not need a degree.   She invented chaff, an important contribution to the effort during World War II.  Chaff is electrically conductive material dropped from bombers to disguise their discovery by radar.  Ms. Curran went on to work on projects in both the U.K. and the U.S.


Limor Fried, AC2SN, was named by the Internet of Things Institute as one of the 25 most influential women in the IoT Industry. She founded the open-source hardware firm Adafruit from her MIT dorm room in 2005.  The company now employs over 50 people.  She was the first female engineer to appear on the cover of Wired magazine, and was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012 by Entrepreneur.   (Sources:  Dec. 2016 QST, page 69; www.adafruit.com)

The Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, Jenean Hampton, is licensed radio amateur K5EIB. She received a degree in industrial engineering, and served seven years in the U.S. Air Force as a computer systems officer, writing and testing software.  In 2015 she was elected to the office of Lt. Governor of Kentucky, the first African-American woman to hold statewide office in Kentucky.   (Sources:  ltgovernor.ky.gov;  Dec. 2016 QST, page 70; )3

Arlene Harris is a wireless serial entrepreneur who has been called “The First Lady of Wireless”.  Starting at age 12 with her family’s wireless paging company, Ms. Harris has formed and run a number of wireless companies including:  Cellular Business Systems, Subscriber Computing, SOS Wireless, Great Call, Dyna LLC, and Wrethink, and the Wrethinking foundation.   Wrethink is introducing Rosy, a digital family organizer.  In 2006 Great Call introduced he Jitterbug cellular phone aimed at the demographic of baby boomers and their parents.   Jitterbug offered simpler user ergonomics and features for seniors.  Ms. Harris developed the Jitterbug with Samsung and her spouse and partner Marty Cooper (inventor of the first cell phone in 1973).  Jitterbug has won many awards  Ms. Harris is the holder of multiple patents.  She is a Fellow in the RCA, was the first female inductee to the Wireless Hall of Fame, was one of Fierce Wireless’ 10 Top U.S. Inventors of All Time, and helped found the Wireless History Foundation with two other women of wireless.

(Source:  Wrethink Website)

Hedy Lamar, the famous Austrian born American screen star of the 1930s and 1940s, co-invented an early method of spread spectrum and frequency hopping radio transmission, and was granted a patent in August of   With the help of composer George Antheil, they developed a jam-proof radio guidance system for torpedoes.  It utilized a similar idea to the way piano rolls work.   Unfortunately it proved too difficult to implement with the technology of the 1940s. However, during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the Navy did implement such a system.  Spread spectrum techniques are used today in CDMA, WiFi, and Bluetooth technologies.  Lamar and Antheil received the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award for their work in 1997. (Source:  Wikipeda)4

Liz Maxfield worked at the FCC, and then at a private law firm where she processed the applications and licenses for the first cellular systems in the top 90 U.S. markets.  She served as president of the CTIA,  and went on to found and be president of a CTIA subsidiary CIBERNET Corporation, and CIBERNET PLC in London.  Ms. Maxfield also ran CTIA’s Health and Safety Program, and their Wireless Data Forum.   Together with two other women she started the Wireless History Foundation.   She is a Fellow of RCA, received RCA’s Lee de Forest award and the CTIA President’s Award.  Ms. Maxfield has degrees in journalism and law.

(Source:  WHF Website)

Gladys Kathleen Parkin (1901-1990) was a young woman who was very involved in wireless in its very early days. She lived in San Rafael, California.   She first became interested at age 5, and at age 9 (around 1910) she obtained her amateur radio license.  She built herself, without assistance, a 250 watt transmitter.  Later at the age of 15 she passed her First Grade Commercial Wireless License, and was issued call sign 6SO.  She was at the time one of only three women commercial wireless operators, and was the youngest woman to pass the test at the time.  She was featured on the cover of the October 1916 issue of Electrical Experimenter, and in an article on page 396 entitled  “The Feminine Wireless Amateur,” she was quoted as saying:

“With reference to my ideas about the wireless profession as a vocation or worthwhile hobby for women, I think wireless telegraphy is a most fascinating study, and one which could very easily be taken up by girls, as it is a great deal more interesting than the telephone and telegraph work, in which so many girls are now employed.”

She was also featured on the cover of the Antique Wireless Association Review for 2011 (Volume 24), with some brief information found on page 268.  The image shown on the AWA Journal cover (similar to the image below) originally was the cover image from The Electrical Experimenter issue mentioned above.

For additional information see:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gladys_Kathleen_Parkin;   http://onetuberadio.com/2015/03/14/kathleen-parkin-6so6bp-radio-pioneer/;  http://wireless-girl.com/OrigWirelessGirl.html

The full article that was in The Electrical Experimenter of 1916 can be found here:  http://earlyradiohistory.us/1916fem.htm.  This fascinating article is replete with many other references to early female wireless operators.


(Image from http://earlyradiohistory.us)


(Image from http://wirelessgirl.com)

Ada Poon is an associate professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University. Her recent article on optogenetics (using light to control cells in living tissue) “A New Kind of Wireless Mouse”  in the IEEE Spectrum describes some interesting research using laboratory mice.  Dr. Poon enjoys solving problems that require an interdisciplinary system view, from theoretical studies to efficient implementation.  Currently, she is researching the wireless delivery of power and data to medical implants, the limits of utilizing polarization in communication systems, and applying mathematical concepts to RF/analog circuit architectures.

Dr. Poon was born and raised in Hong Kong.  She received her B.Eng degree from the EEE department at the University of Hong Kong and her Ph.D. degree from the EECS department at the University of California at Berkeley in 2004.  Her dissertation attempted to connect information theory with electromagnetic theory so as to better understand the fundamental limit of wireless channels.

Upon graduation, she spent one year at Intel as a senior research scientist building reconfigurable baseband processors for flexible radios.  Afterwards, she joined her advisor’s startup company, SiBeam Inc., architecting Gigabit wireless transceivers leveraging 60 GHz CMOS and MIMO antenna systems. After two years in industry, she returned to the academic world and joined the faculty of the ECE department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  Since then, she has changed her research direction from wireless communications to integrated biomedical systems.  In 2008, she moved back to California and joined the faculty of the Department of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University.  She is a Terman Fellow at Stanford University.  She received the Okawa Foundation Research Grant in 2010 and NSF CAREER Award in 2013.  (Sources:  IEEE Spectrum Dec. 2016, page 26; www.stanford.edu; and various Internet sources)7

Mary Ann Weitnauer is the senior associate chair for Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). In 1989, after graduating with her doctorate, she became the first female faculty member of Georgia Tech’s School of ECE.  She is the director of the Smart Antenna Research Laboratory, is the author or co-author of more than 190 academic papers, and holds 23 patents and invention disclosures.   She is a senior member of the IEEE and is currently associate editor for the IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications.  She has also served on numerous committees at Georgia Tech including Vice President for Institute Diversity.  Dr. Weitnauer received RCA’s VIvian Carr Award in 2017.  (Sources:  Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine, Winter 2016, page 88; RCA)8

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