Hidden Figures

Last January, my daughter and I went to see the movie “Hidden Figures.” I have always loved everything space, and have followed NASA and the space program since I was a teenager. We absolutely enjoyed the movie and the positives it shared about women and their roles in the space program in the early and mid-1960s.

As a teacher, I am always looking for books to encourage my students to be the best people they can be. “Hidden Figures” is one such book. Where else can you find a book that gives a great description of a number of women, who were considered to be suppressed at the time (in the 1940-1970s), in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, who were highly successful in an up and coming field primarily dominated by men? What an opportunity to read and share with students! What a way for the girls to become excited about math and computers!

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One thing I didn’t realize at the time that the movie had been based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, although I knew the movie was based on a true story. Also, one of the characters, Katherine Johnson, was from a small, poor, rural county in West Virginia – my home state.

After the movie, my daughter and I went to the store where I found, and bought, the book “Hidden Figures.” I devoured the book within 2 days. I loved learning about the multiple women and learning how valued they were by NACA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. In particular, how women, both white, and especially, African American women were valued and respected in a white man’s world. The women were given tremendous opportunities in a time and in a field that was strongly dominated by white men.

I am encouraged by their spunk and bravery to try things I might not have before. As a teacher, I want to use these women as positive examples to encourage my girls, in particular, to reach for the stars.

The book discusses several other women, particularly the African American women, who played such a large role in helping to develop the space program to what it is today – beginning in 1943 through the 1990s. These women took leading roles, and were often the brains, in the behind the scenes developments. Katherine Johnson was instrumental in the trajectory of John Glenn’s space flight and knowing that we had the ability to get to the moon. She could prove it with her math.

I loved many things about NASA in the past, but am definitely even more in love now. I also have a great respect for those at Langley Research Center and the work they did to help the space program, as well as those at Langley who gave those of a double minority (both women and African American) the opportunity to show and prove they, too, have the smarts to succeed.

I can highly recommend this book and the movie to you. I would definitely read the book AND watch the movie. It is definitely a book worth sharing with the young ladies in your classes, to encourage them to become the best they can be and that they can succeed in any area they put their minds to.

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