Bonum Certa Men Certa

Susan G Kleinmann, MIT Lincoln Laboratory & Debian women role model

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Feb 18, 2024,
updated Feb 18, 2024

Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock.

17 Feb 2024

The Debian Women "Project" is publishing a list of women who participated in Debian over the years.

If you took all the girlfriends with Debian Developer certificates today and summed all their work together it is unlikely they would equal the achievements of Debian's first woman, Susan G Kleinmann.

In Dr Kleinmann's case, we don't see any evidence of dating. Looking through messages in the debian-private (leaked) gossip network, we found she occasionally makes a point but without preaching to people.

Subject: Re: packages with nasty names
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 1996 07:56:25 -0400
From: Susan G. Kleinmann <>
To: Bruce Perens <>

Hi Bruce -- You wrote: > There's a guy who wants to upload something called "BitchX". It's a patched > IRC client. Should I make him change the name?
On the one hand, I think we all find word-policing distasteful. On the other hand, it could be asked what benefit the author sees in using that name. Seems to me like a Howard Stern approach to software marketing -- it has more potential to make a splash than a contribution.
Susan Kleinmann

We don't see her asking for internships and travel grants. What we see is a woman who is probably smarter than ninety-nine percent of the men in Debian today.

Dr Kleinmann's page in the NM system and Debian contributors report.

Dr Kleinmann has communicated with us through email addresses , , , and and maybe others.

Dr Kleinmann is mentioned in the MIT Museum archives, sadly they have not shared a photo. They tell us that she was an Associate Professor of Physics from 1972 and staff member at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory from 1980 onwards. It is not clear if she was still affiliated with the national security lab when she started to engage with Debian in 1996.

Dr Kleinmann was doctoral supervisor for another brilliant woman, Professor Marcia Jean Rieke.

Dr Kleinmann has published at least 85 research papers according to ResearchGate. We can see that Professor Rieke has published 397 papers. Given that Dr Kleinmann was working in national security, she may have written 397 papers too and the other eighty percent of them simply didn't get published because they are classified. Google Scholar finds more papers too.

Looking at recent controversies around Debian funds spent on Outreachy internships, we find several examples of women who did not publish any code or anything at all. Is this because their work was classified or because the men in charge don't really trust women to touch the code today?

What we have with Google Summer of Code (GSoC) and the Outreachy program is a culture of men rationing money for women. The results are very awkward and in Kosovo, women refused to take the money. That is really awkward that these men couldn't even give money away in a developing country.

We found the original web site from Dr Kleinmann in the Wayback Machine. One of her favorite articles, which she has republished tongue-in-cheek, is a text about how to be a good wife from the 1950s American high school curriculum.

When GSoC and Outreachy first began, there were very few rules written down. Mentors and interns were left to work out how to achieve the goals in their own way. Each year, more and more written rules have been added to the GSoC and Outreachy web sites so they have become indistinguishable from any other job. Did Dr Kleinmann's choice of How to be a Good Wife predict the evolution of Debian Outreachy phenomena?

In 2017, Debian leader Chris Lamb visited Albania for the first time and ate a meal cooked by the mother of an Outreachy candidate. The woman was photographed sitting next to Lamb and smiling at the DebConf19 dinner in Brazil. Eight weeks after that she was awarded an Outreachy internship. Looking through the photo history, it looks a lot like How to be a Good Wife.

Here is a quote from the article:

Minimize all noise: At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, dishwasher or vacuum. Try to ancourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad to see him.

Before taking these women to Brazil, Lamb had removed other mentors who made ethical noises about Outreachy dating phenomena. Here is that photo of the woman's warm smile, sitting next to Lamb at the DebConf19 dinner:

Anisa Kuci, Chris Lamb

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