Hidden Figures: The Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race

Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly is an inspirational story of three African-American women -- Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson --who make their way to NASA and contribute to some of the most famous events in the history of aeronautics and the space program.  In the buildup to and through WWII, the US Government was desperately trying to find workers with strong mathematical skills.  These three ladies and other intelligent women were literally referred to as “computers” due to their computational abilities.  The results of their work were used in many different programs under development at that time and an inaccuracy could mean the difference between life and death.   

Although these talented women were highly valued for their knowledge and abilities inside NASA, they still faced prejudice that was embedded, particularly in the South, at that time.  Despite the bias they encountered, Mses. Johnson, Jackson and Vaughn persevered and became widely respected within the organization.  These grand ladies also helped other women on their career trajectories.   

The author does a nice job of weaving the Civil Rights disparities that existed at the time into the story without losing the essence of these three strong characters.  These women were working at high pressure, demanding jobs while raising a family, facing many of the same issues working women face today but without the available resources.  While the pay may have initially attracted these ladies to the roles, their insatiable appetite for learning and challenge as well as their proficiency in solving mathematical and scientific problems, kept them there.  As times changed, after the war ended and the space program lost its luster, these women continued to reinvent themselves and stay at the top of their games by learning new skills.  I would have been honored to have meet these inspirational individuals. 

This brief review does not do the book justice.  Suffice it to say that this book is simply a must read.  If you think that you are not getting recognized at work, I encourage you to read Hidden Figures and put your challenges into perspective.  I will be excited to download the movie soon so that I may revisit the stories of these three amazing women.