Recently, I went to go see the movie “Hidden Figures” with my coworkers. This movie tells the story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who were all black women working for NASA. The term “hidden figures” describes people who accomplished great feats during their time, but went unrecognized. In honor of this amazing movie, I have highlight four amazing women who are “Hidden Figures”
Growing up, Katherine Johnson was grades ahead in school due to her undeniable intelligence. She was even picked to be one of only three black students to be placed into West Virginia University’s graduate school. She earned a PhD in mathematics and made her living as a teacher until she was hired by NASA in 1953 to work for an all black computing section, since segregation was still widely in place. She became most known for her work in 1962, on the Friendship 7 mission that would launch John Glenn into space. He even told NASA to have her final check the numbers before the take off since he trusted her calculations more than he did the machines. In 2015, at the age of 97, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2016, the Katherine G Johnson Computational Research Facility was created in her honor. It is a truly despicable notion that anybody could overlook her achievements. I mean, come on! Her mind put a man into space!
Susan B. Anthony
I’ve heard of Susan B Anthony many times but I never really knew who she was. Maybe I lack basic education, or maybe we forget how much she’s really done. She joined the women’s rights movement in 1852 and she dedicated her life to equality for all people. She fought for women’s basic rights, their ability to vote, and the abolition of slavery. In 1900 she got the University of Rochester to admit women which helped to further many girls in their educational pursuits. She worked until she died in 1906. Women’s suffrage wasn’t granted until years after, in 1920. Fun fact: she voted illegally at one point and was fined, but she just never bothered paying it.
Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi is a politician in Myanmar (Burma) who fought for democracy. At this time many people were being killed by the dictator, U Ne Win. She led the people in nonviolent protests to change their government. She was placed under house arrest in 1989 and charged with trying to ruin the military. In 1991 she was awarded the noble peace prize for her peaceful approach to uniting the people and fighting for democracy. She was freed from house arrest in 2002, but forced to deal with it yet again in 2003. She was fully released in 2010 and in 2015 she was given a seat at the National League for Democracy. Although she was continuously punished for her actions she continued to stand up for what she knew was right and didn’t give up.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first female president of Liberia. In the 1980’s she worked towards speaking out against the military regime. Yet she was sentenced to ten years in jail for her actions (she only ended up staying for a partial sentence). She ran for president in 1997 but she lost, partially because the other candidate claimed that she was a criminal and had committed treason. However, in 2005, the people were campaigning for the removal of President Taylor. Due to her passion for ending the civl war, Sirleaf was elected as president in 2006. In 2011 she earned the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women. She’s still president to this day and I don’t want to imagine how tired she must be after 11 years in office.
Hidden figures are all around us. They are everyday people who push the boundaries, fight for justice, and dare to change the norm. No matter how powerless you may feel, you can make a change. Be strong, get educated, and use your voice!