Saturday, February 11, 2017

Black History Month Celebrates Herstory, with 3 Hidden Figures

Metamora Herald nasa sign

A  movie based on a nonfiction book called Hidden Figures is in theaters right now. Some of you may have heard of this or perhaps even been to see it by now or are planning to. Some of you may never get the chance or might not think a movie about three strong, intelligent, black women is going to interest you. What if I told you if it weren’t for those women we might not have been able to get into outer space as quickly as we did? Rockets and space travel are pretty cool, right?
Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson were real life “super computers”. The work they were involved with, aeronautical engineering,mathematics, and physics had to be done the old-fashioned way, with their minds, pencil and paper. During World War 2, women were actually given the opportunities only men had before. Of course, this was at lower wages but nonetheless, the women took the jobs.  Dorothy, Katherine, and Mary were all hired to work at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, a department of NASA. The area the three ladies worked in had segregated eating areas and bathrooms. These women had to run across campus to the “colored bathroom” until their boss tore the sign on the door down ending the segregated bathroom nonsense there.
Metamora Herald rocket taking off

While dealing with racial tensions of the times, the ladies were also faced with blatant sexism from their male colleagues. They were not allowed to attend integral meetings about the space missions that they were doing the mathematics.  Until, Katherine’s calculations were the only thing John Glenn would rely on because the IBM calculations were incorrect, and she saved the Friendship 7 mission and helped with many others. Mary eventually, became the 1st black female engineer to work at NASA and was the only one for most of her career. Dorothy taught herself and her co-workers how to understand the FORTRAN programming language of the new computers. She secured a position for herself and became the 1st female and black supervisor at NASA. I can not fit into just a couple paragraphs everything these 3 women accomplished, sorry way too much. 
I can not even begin to fathom the math equations involved with rocket science. Thankfully, for all of us, there are those of you who can.To think of all the struggles these women faced in their daily lives, and they were all wives and mothers. I am just so glad someone finally recognized the importance of their stories and we can read about them. My hope is that by seeing this movie or reading this book young girls of all colors and creeds, will be inspired and get into science, mathematics, physics, and engineering.

Credit to the author of the book Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race Margot Lee Shetterly.

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