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Why Haven’t We Heard About the Women in Hidden Figures Until Now?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UAB chapter.

The movie, Hidden Figures, released in January 2016, is a tribute to three incredible African-American women who were crucial to the success of John Glenn’s space mission in the sixties. The movie was a beautiful representation of the struggles and the successes of three women who were working for NASA during the 1960s: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson.  Not only were these women trying to find a place in a male-dominated field, they were doing so in a time of segregation. These women endured discrimination because of their gender, but mainly because of their race. Even though they were all highly qualified, they had to work much harder than anyone else to prove that they were the best people for the job. 

Like I said, I loved this movie. After I saw it, I was all pumped up on female pride! As I began to reflect on the film, I couldn’t get past one obvious problem. How have I lived my entire life and never heard of these game-changing women until now? I mean, that space mission would not have been successful if they had not played a part in its execution. So why did none of their names ring a bell until after I saw this movie? This is an issue that I believe goes back to lack of representation of women and people from different cultures in school curriculum and history books. We, as a country, need to start giving credit where credit is due. I know I can’t be the only person who is upset that Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson had to wait this long to be recognized for their amazing contributions to America’s history. All people who contribute to making history should be celebrated. No person should be “hidden” due to their race or gender. We must teach about these hidden figures so that little girls of color and little girls all over the world see that they are capable of breaking down barriers. One of my professors said, “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” This statement really stuck with me because of the subconscious messages that we are sending to children. Currently, our textbooks are telling minorities and women that there’s only room for one race and gender to make history. We must show children of color, and little girls examples of people like them who have done the impossible. We must represent all of these groups in how we tell the story of America because we are not America without their contributions. There is room for everyone to make history and break barriers. 

I am a dreamer, avid jigsaw puzzler, and future teacher. I value education, and I hope to use it to change the world!