Women who made pinball: Margaret Hudson, Suzanne Ciani, and ???

I have a women’s tournament coming up in a few weeks. Part of the reasoning behind scheduling the event when we did was to tie it in with International Women’s Day (which is the following day) and more generally, Women’s History Month.

In keeping with the theme, I want to use the tournament as an opportunity to highlight contributions women have made to the history of pinball, specifically with respect to creating games.

My original plan was to focus on highlighting one woman’s contribution in particular. So the tournament name and flyers reference the game Xenon because it was the first machine to feature a female voice and because the sound was designed by a women composer, Suzanne Ciani. I was planning on printing up either a flyer or maybe a poster to hang on the wall with information about Ciani’s work on Xenon and her career in general, and picking up some of her CDs to give out as prizes.

As I think I about it more, it seems like it would be a wasted opportunity to not showcase other contributions women have made to pinball. I would like to put something together featuring more women who’ve had a role in the industry, but I am far from an expert on pinball history and I confess I don’t know of any other than artist Margaret Hudson (who I don’t know very much about).

I was hoping some of the knowledgable folks here might be able to help me out and give me some names to research, or even just point me in the right direction of where to start looking. I am at a complete loss. Any ideas?

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IPDB can help with information about Margaret Hudson (and others, of course). Linda Deal did art for WMS in the 90’s, and Jeanine Mitchell did art for WMS and Premier in the 80’s and 90’s.

There are other women who had more limited involvement… e.g. Stephanie Rogers and Glo Van Vlack (no, I didn’t remember their names, so thanks IPDB :wink: sang the ever-popular choir song for Black Knight 2000, and Carlene Carter did the voice of Red for Road Show, along with the jackpot song in that game.

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Of course there were never many women in engineering, but there are a few I know of (never met them personally):

Zofia Bil - mechanical engineer on a bunch of games. I believe her name is now Zofia Ryan and she’s still at Wms.

Kristina Donofrio - programmer at both Sega (DE?) and Williams (maybe just video at Wms?) I know I’ve seen comments in code attributed to her when I was at Stern (still on the Whitestar system)

Margaret I HAVE worked with. She most often worked with Kevin O’Connor I believe, and most often did art production work on projects I was with her on. Did all the insert lettering, for example. That’s not to say she hasn’t done any traditional artwork ever.

Sorry I can’t think of any other names offhand.

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There are a few names that haven’t been mentioned, although none of them were directly involved in game design, they all had an impact on the game.

Karen Trybula - Managed manuals at Williams for years. I’m not sure how many years, but when I was going through some of the detritus from shutdown I found a box of floppy disks from her office that went back to Black Knight. I believe she actually gathered the information and laid out all the manuals in whatever software was being used at the time.

Elaine Johnson - Managed the Bill of Materials for games at Williams. This basically means she gathered lists all the parts for the game, put them together and calculated the cost of a game from a parts perspective. She was pretty amazing, you could walk up to her and ask ‘What is the part number for the goalie target on World Cup Soccer?’ and she could recite it.

Phillis Rosenthal - Did the Bill of Materials job at Data East/Sega/Stern. Also the mother of Jack Liddon who did dots at Sega.

And beyond that there were (and are) many women on the assembly lines at all the factories involved.

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Thank you all, this is really helpful!

Thanks again @joe, @keefer, and @heyrocker for the help!

We had the tournament today, and I put together a little display highlighting some of the women mentioned here (and some I learned of elsewhere). People really seemed to dig it!

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Hi all, this information is awesome!

Im also doing a pinball project and I really want to include works by women designers. Im finding it difficult to obtain contact information for several of these artists. Does anyone know of artist websites or Facebook pages that I could contact these artists through? Im particularly interesting in featuring Margaret Hudson, Kristina Donofrio, Linda Deal and Suzanne Ciani. Im producing a pinball exhibition for Columbia College Chicago and would love to feature work by these artists and invite them to contribute to the exhibition catalog.

Thanks!

Suzanne Ciani has a Facebook page, I don’t know about any of the others though.

Not sure if you are still looking, but Pam Erickson did art for Sorcerer, Laser Cue, Pennant Fever and Rat Race with Williams…

Phoebe

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This is rad! Do you have any copies of this anywhere? I would love to get this to the woman that runs the local woman’s league here.

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Awesome, thanks for the tips!

The exhibit starts on September 6, will have the catalog finished by the same date. The catalog and exhibit will both be free. Id be happy to send copies out.

I design rethemes from scratch; don’t know if that’s too indy for what you’re seeking, tho. Cabinet art, translites, playfields. Here is some of my work: hardypinball.com

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Reby,

Keep up the fantastic work! The work on Matt’s machine was incredible! Can’t wait to see Ferris!

Thank you so much ! Ferris is going to be next level :sunglasses:

Suzanne Ciani has been featured in some recent (2019-2021) documentaries and is easily the most visible.

In 2021, Zofia Ryan got a very prestigious position at American Pinball.

There were some prominent women on the sales and marketing side. In particular, Carol Kantor at Atari (and afterward) was very influential.
…David Marston

TOPcast interviewed Margret Hudson
(15meg, 40mins).
Sunday night show July 29 2007. Bally/DataEast/Stern production pinball artist. Margaret started work right out of college in the 1970s working for Bally under Paul Faris and Dave Christensen in the Bally art department. Margaret Hudson is of course best known for her work on Bally’s Eight Ball Deluxe pinball. Later she moved to DataEast, working on all of their pin games from 1987 to 1991. Recently she is working for Stern with Kevin O’Connor on such pinball titles as Playboy, Simpson Pinball Party, and Lord of the Rings. Ms.Hudson will talk about her experience working as a female in the (male dominated) pinball industry.

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