Weekend Reads: “Hidden Figures,” by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space RaceHidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I may be one of the people on the planet who has not yet seen the film based on this outstanding book. However, I am glad that I read it before watching the movie; there is only so much you can put on-screen and this well-researched book (more than 100 pages of end notes, and an extensive bibliography in addition to first-person interviews) deserves the full attention of those who are interested in women’s history.

Hidden Figures primarily focuses on three of the black women who worked in the earliest days of NASA as “computers” — what they called the female mathematicians at the time. In telling the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson, author Margot Lee Shetterly sheds light not only on the challenges women faced in the workplace, but also on the problems inherent in segregation. For example, the women in the West Computer building had a 30-minute walk to use the “colored” bathroom — although Mary Jackson decided she was just going to brave arrest and use the one in their building anyway.

The book was not only informative, but also highly entertaining because of the author’s engaging voice. We got a look into the three women’s lives not only at work but outside of the office, and the epilogue gave us a look at what the women did after the first moon landing that their calculations helped make possible.

Well done!

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