She was born Betty Jean Jennings in Gentry County, Missouri, in 1924 and attended Northwest Missouri State Teachers College, majoring in mathematics. In 1945, she was hired by the University of Pennsylvania to work for Army Ordnance at Aberdeen Proving Ground. When the ENIAC computer was developed for the purpose of calculating ballistics trajectories, she was selected to be one of its first programmers. Bartik later became part of a group charged with converting the ENIAC into a stored program computer; in the original implementation, ENIAC was programmed by setting dials and changing cable connections. She went on to work on the BINAC and UNIVAC I computers.
Bartik became an editor for Auerbach Publishers, an early publisher of information on high technology. She left Auerbach to join Data Decisions, a competitor to Datapro Research (now part of the Gartner Group) and Auerbach. Data Decisions was founded in 1980 by Elizabeth McKeown Sussman (formerly of Datapro) and Sandra Eisenberg, also of Datapro. Data Decisions was funded by Ziff-Davis Publishing in 1980. Jean joined Data Decisions in 1981 where she was a Senior Editor for the Communications Services research publication. Data Decisions was acquired by McGraw-Hill (then owners of Datapro) in 1985 and promptly shut down. Having lost her job at the age of 61, Bartik was unable to find any more work in the computer industry and instead began a new career as a real estate agent, which she remained in for most of the rest of her life. She died from congestive heart failure on March 23, 2011.
Bartik was a friend of over 60 years with John Mauchly's widow, Kathleen "Kay" Antonelli. Mauchly was co-inventor of the ENIAC. He walked Jean down the aisle when she married and it was at Jean's wedding reception that he had the courage to approach Kay about dating. Kay was also one of the six original women programmers of the ENIAC. Bartik has a museum in her name at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. The museum boasts rare one-of-a-kind ENIAC, BINAC and UNIVAC exhibits, including an original salesman pot-metal model of the UNIVAC I.
In addition to a BS in mathematics from Northwest Missouri State Teachers College, Bartik held an MS in English from the University of Pennsylvania and an honorary Dr. of Science from Northwest Missouri State University. In 1997 she was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame, along with the other original ENIAC programmers. In 2008 she was one of three Fellow Award honorees of the Computer History Museum, along with Bob Metcalfe and Linus Torvalds. In 2008 she also received the IEEE Computer Pioneer Award from the IEEE Computer Society, for "pioneering work as one of the first programmers, including co-leading the first teams of ENIAC programmers, and pioneering work on BINAC and UNIVAC I." 
In 2008, she was made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum "for contributions as one of the first programmers of the groundbreaking ENIAC computing system in 1945, and for further assistance in converting the ENIAC system into one of the first stored-program computers."
- Lohr, Steve (2011-04-07). "Jean Bartik, Software Pioneer, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-08.
- Some sources (Goldstine, McCartney) cite her name as Elizabeth Jennings; this is incorrect. Her birth certificate reads Betty Jean Jennings.
- Northwest Missouri State University
- "Jean Bartik". Computer History Museum. Retrieved 2013-05-23.
- Bartik, Jean Jennings (2013). Rickman, Jon T.; Todd, Kim D., eds. Pioneer programmer : Jean Jennings Bartik and the computer that changed the world. Kirksville, Missouri: Truman State University Press. ISBN 9781612480862. OCLC 854828754.
- UNIVAC conference, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota. 171-page transcript of oral history with computer pioneers, including Jean Bartik, involved with the Univac computer, held on 17–18 May 1990. The meeting involved 25 engineers, programmers, marketing representatives, and salesmen who were involved with the UNIVAC, as well as representatives from users such as General Electric, Arthur Andersen, and the U.S. Census.
- Female Frontiers (NASA)
- WITI Hall of Fame
- Jean JENNINGS Bartik Computing Museum at NWMSU
- Jean Bartik: the untold story of a remarkable ENIAC programmer
- McGraw Deal on Ziff Unit, New York Times