Have you seen the movie Hidden Figures? The first time I saw it was after I marched in the Women’s March in 2017. I walked away from the theater thinking I cannot believe we are just now hearing about these incredible women. It made me angry. In school we were taught that John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth in 1962 but we were not taught that the only reason he was able to return to Earth was because of an African American woman mathematician named Katherine Johnson. Ms. Johnson recalculated the landing coordinates after the IBM computer miscalculated them AND THEN when the space capsule had a heat shield problem and was close to imploding her suggestion for the fix proved correct and John Glenn returned to Earth alive and the space shuttle in tact.
I have since watched this movie again several times and every time, I still shake my head in disbelief. In honor of the MeToo movement, the TimesUp movement, the Women’s March and Black History Month here are a few other incredible women that have made an impact on this world despite facing deep rooted racism, sexism and stereotypes.
Madam CJ Walker(1867-1919)– One of the first American woman to become a self-made millionaire. She invented a line of hair products for African American women in 1905.
Dorothy Vaughan(1910-2008)-An African American mathematician and human computer who worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and NASA, at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
Maggie Lena Walker(1864-1934)-The first black woman to form a bank, and the first woman of any race to be a bank president in the U.S.
Septima Clark(1898-1987)-An educator and an activist who laid important groundwork for voting rights among black citizens, used literacy as her chosen weapon in the fight for civil rights.
Bessie Coleman(1898-1926)-In the face of poverty and discrimination beat all odds and became the first African American female pilot in the United States. Despite issues of racism and sexism, Coleman graduated with an international pilot’s license and went on to become a wildly popular aviatrix drawing thousands of people to her air shows.
There are so many others. It’s time we know and educate ourselves on the hidden figures that made history but are not in our history books.