Hidden Figures Book Summary By Margot Lee Shetterly

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Hidden Figures

Book Name: Hidden Figures (The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians who Helped Win the Space Race)

Author(s): Margot Lee Shetterly

Rating: 4.2/5

Reading Time: 44 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

Hidden Figures is an inspiring book written by Margot Lee Shetterly, a capable writer who grew up in Hampton, Virginia.

As a result of her upbringing in this area, she was able to develop meaningful relationships with the incredible women that form the basis of her story.

Her commitment to uncovering their stories resulted in her receiving a research grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and an Alfred P.

Sloan Foundation fellowship among other accolades.

She exemplifies hard work and dedication towards uncovering these remarkable stories that have been kept hidden away so they can now be shared and celebrated.

Listen To The Story Of Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, And Mary Jackson: Three Black Women Who Shaped The 20Th Century

Mary Jackson

The story of Hidden Figures is one that needs to be told, introducing readers to three amazing Black women – Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson – who played an integral part in the development of twentieth century events.

From playing a role in WWII machines to helping with the Space Race and Civil Rights Movement, their contributions have helped shape our world today.

This is a Biography that tells their stories.

You can get the best experience by listening to it through the audio version!

It’ll bring these incredible women’s stories to life even more so – allowing you dive right into their fascinating accomplishments.

The Courage And Determination Of The Black Women Computers Of World War Ii

Before there was NASA, there was NACA, or the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

This agency had to rapidly expand their workforce during World War II due to increased demand of warplanes.

Men were being drafted into the war and this put a strain on who would be hired, thus opening up opportunities for women to become mathematical computers within the agency.

In 1941 however, civil rights activist A.

Philip Randolph threatened to lead a march on Washington D.C., putting pressure on President Roosevelt who then signed Executive Order 8802, desegregating defense industries as well as creating the Fair Employment Practices Committee.

This opened up opportunities for Black women mathematicians which began in 1943 at Langley Aeronautical Lab in Hampton, Virginia with the nickname: “West Computers.” Despite having an open door and positions available however, these women were segregated and faced discrimination while they chose to work hard despite it all.

One of those pioneers that faced racial segregation was Dorothy Vaughan who was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1910.

Dorothy received a full scholarship and majored in Math at Wilberforce University before taking teaching positions at a number of different schools finally landing at Farmville High School where she met her husband Howard Vaughan and started her family while also continuing her dedication to teaching students math – demonstrating that a good education is invaluable even when faced with prejudice

Dorothy Vaughan And Mary Jackson: Pioneers Of African American Women’S Equality In The Aerospace Industry

Women’S Equality

In Chapter 2 of “Hidden Figures,” Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson are introduced.

Dorothy is a mathematical genius who worked for the NACA, or National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, during World War II.

She is offered a permanent position at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory after the war ends and quickly becomes an invaluable asset to the agency, working as an engineer in their West Computer division.

At the same time, Mary Jackson is growing up in Hampton, Virginia listening to stories from her family about slavery and emancipation.

She attends Hampton Institute and double majors in math and physical sciences before marrying her husband Levi and becoming a teacher for a few years.

When she returns home to take care of her ill father, she begins volunteering with the Girl Scouts to mentor young girls of her community.

Both Dorothy and Mary go on to work at NACA in 1951, where they are amongst many other amazing female employees – both Black and white – trying to advance their careers while dealing with racial discrimination present evevrywhere throughout their lives.

Dorothy is promoted to supervisor of the West Computers division – becoming Langley’s first ever manager – while Mary goes on to become an engineer, working alongside Dorothy in this division.

With two strong female leaders like them inspiring change within NACA, it wasn’t long until more women around them were receiving recognition for their hard work which had gone unnoticed for so many years.

Katherine Goble’S Refusal To Accept Inequality Opened Doors Of Opportunity In The Space Race

In Chapter 3 of Hidden Figures, readers meet Katherine Goble who had inherited her father’s gift for both people and mathematics.

Growing up, she had learned the importance of being humble and was able to pick up fluent French quickly.

Katherine attended college on a full scholarship and even pursued a degree in math; however, becoming a mother put a pause on her research dreams.

Despite this roadblock, Katherine rose through the ranks at NACA and earned a spot in the West Computers.

At NASA, she studied aviation wake vortices which led to updating air traffic regulations.

While she was aware of the racial segregation at Langley, Katherine chose to see everyone as equals- regardless of their skin color or cultural background.

John Glenn’S Request To Engineers Highlights The Value Of Good Calculations In High-Risk Situations


Chapter 4 of the Hidden Figures book focuses on Katherine Goble’s determination and ingenuity in her engineering work at Langley.

After being presented with the daunting task of charting the trajectory of astronaut John Glenn’s orbital flight, Katherine accepted with confidence and ambition.

She worked for months to complete the 34-page report entitled “Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite over a Selected Earth Position,” which proved to be a major breakthrough in aerospace engineering.

The chapter also brings attention to the difficulties the Black community faced regarding civil rights and education during this era.

Despite landmark Supreme Court decisions such as Brown v Board of Education, integration was still met with defiance from local lawmakers, resulting in years of school closures if noncompliance persisted.

In order to provide their children with greater opportunities, parents such as Dorothy, Mary and Katherine instilled ambition, dedication and hard-work into their everyday lives.

It is this perseverance that eventually resulted in Katherine’s success – which is symbolized by her penning her newly acquired married name on the finalized report – preparing all stakeholders involved in John Glenn’s mission, including himself, for its successful launch on February 20th 1962.

If you’re heading off to bed, I wish for your restful sleep and sweet dreams!

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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