Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
The Hidden Figures author is often asked why more people don’t know about the black women mathematicians who worked at NASA. She thinks their story is inspiring because it shows that being good at something can help you succeed even if you face discrimination. One of the mathematicians featured in the book, Katherine Johnson, loved her job at NASA and was most proud of her work on the lunar rendezvous. She helped save the Apollo 13 mission with her calculations, but ultimately, a simpler method was used. The author thinks that being prepared and having luck is important.
Katherine Johnson worked at Langley with other women mathematicians on space and satellite programs. She became famous for her achievements and inspired other black and female scientists and engineers. She received many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Katherine Johnson is often mistakenly believed to have been the only woman in her group, but there were four others, including one who was also black. Her story shows how African Americans have been left out of history. She respected her colleagues and wanted them to receive more recognition. Katherine Johnson is a symbol of perseverance and equality, and her story is an inspiration to many. Margot Lee Shetterly believes that by recognizing the achievements of women like Katherine Johnson, we can appreciate all the women who helped NASA succeed. These women were recognized for their talent, not their differences.
Margot Lee Shetterly mentions Mary Jackson, a woman who wanted to make things better for African Americans and women. After the Moon landing, there was still a lot of poverty and injustice in America, especially for people living in poor areas. Even though women like Katherine Johnson got good jobs, many people were still struggling.
In the 1970s, people stopped working on planes that could go super fast because they were bad for the environment. Mary Jackson kept working at a research center called Langley, where she studied how roughness affects things that move. She learned how to use computers to do her work instead of wind tunnels. Mary was really into science and engineering and tried to get kids interested in it too. Later, Mary realized that women and minorities weren’t getting the same opportunities as other people, so she took a lower job so she could help women get ahead. Mary thought that women could help bring different groups of people together.
The epilogue of Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly talks about the difficulty of not being able to include all the incredible stories of the people she met while writing the book. It explains that there was originally a final section detailing how Mary Jackson and her colleagues worked to extinguish the fantasy that only men could be engineers in the 1970s and 1980s, but this was cut from the final version.
The section also tells the story of Gloria Champine, a friend of Mary’s who helped to promote unrecognized talent and was the first woman to hold a high-ranking position in the Space Systems Division at Langley. The passage shows how Gloria and Mary worked together to support women and minorities and the challenges they faced in their personal and professional lives.
Gloria worked to make sure everyone had a fair chance at Langley, including Christine Darden, who was doing boring work with other women. When Christine found out she might lose her job, she complained about how women were treated differently from men. John Becker, Langley’s division chief listened and put Christine in a group that was working on sonic boom research.
Christine worked hard and made a program that helped stop loud noises from planes. She then went to college and got a PhD in engineering, even though she had a lot to do at home. But even with all her education and hard work, Christine still had trouble getting a good job because she was a woman. Gloria helped her by a chart to Langley’s management, which highlighted the disparity between Christine’s and a male engineer’s promotion. With Gloria’s efforts, Christine received the promotion and gained the recognition she deserved.
The epilogue also mentions Dorothy Vaughan who worked at Langley during a time when women and African Americans were not typically given opportunities to advance in their careers. Despite this, Dorothy became a supervisor and helped many women start successful careers in science and technology. However, when Dorothy retired, she was disappointed that she did not receive the promotion she was hoping for. Despite this setback, she remained optimistic and continued to travel and enjoy her retirement. Later in life, she was approached about joining a lawsuit against the company for pay discrimination, but she declined, saying that she had been paid what was promised to her. Even though Dorothy is no longer at Langley, her legacy lives on through the women she helped to mentor and inspire.