Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly is the biographical story of the women who made up the West Area Computers in NASA’s early days.
As World War II intensifies, Langley requires human computers to help develop new advances in aviation. These computers come in the form of skilled mathematicians; with many men off to the front lines, this leaves the women to fill those spots. Since the mathematicians are so highly prized, Langley consents to hiring black women, many of them teachers with extensive mathematics backgrounds. These women become known as the West End Computers, separate from their white East End Computers but no less talented.
Despite their talents, the West End Computers still experience various forms of segregation, which they each battle in their own way with varyif degrees of success. From separate tablesnin the communal lunch room to separate bathrooms, though they may work together the West End Computers are still regarded as separate.
As the war ends and the space age begins, the East End Computers are slowly phased out. The West End Computers take over the work, but quite a number of ladies also leave to return to their families – but not all of them. Some, like Mary Winston and Katherine Goble, are moved to engineering groups to work on specific projects. Others, like Dorothy Vaughn, reinvent themselves as Langley begins to install computers to do most of the mathematical work.
And slowly, segregation begins to end.
Hidden Figures is an inspiring story of the women who made the early days of NASA possible while fighting segregation and discrimination on the way. They are the silent ones who worked diligently and quietly behind the scenes. This is their story, and the story of those who helped them along the way.
Like many, I became inspired to read this book shortly after learning of the movie based on it. I don’t ever read non-fiction, but I founf this book to be insightful and inspiring to everyone. There were times I missed dialogue – because there is very little in this narrative – but all the same I really enjoyed this hidden history lesson into Langley’s past
My rating: 4/5