Women who inspired ‘Hidden Figures’ to receive Congressional Medals

Nov 14, 2019 by

Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, worked as “human computers” at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they’re getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race” by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA’s Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed “Hidden Figures Way.”

Now, the women are being awarded Congressional Gold Medals, the highest award for a civilian in the U.S. Vaughan and Jackson will be awarded posthumously. A fifth gold medal will honor all of the women who contributed to NASA during the Space Race.

It’s amazing to think of what the women were able to achieve all while fighting against segregation, racism, and sexism. Johnson was the first woman recognized as an author of a report from the Flight Research Division. Vaughan became the first African American supervisor at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which turned into NASA. Jackson was the first African-American female engineer at NASA, then later became Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager. Darden was the first African-American promoted into the Senior Executive Service at Langley, and wrote over 50 articles on aeronautics design.

Source: Women who inspired ‘Hidden Figures’ to receive Congressional Medals – GOOD

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