Reviews for Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

by Margot Lee Shetterly

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

At a time when "colored" water fountains and separate bathrooms also meant that African-Americans were excluded from many good jobs, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden made themselves indispensable to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which became NASA in 1958. These four African-American trailblazing mathematicians worked as NASA computers before machines performed mathematical computations for the space program despite sexism and segregation that made their jobs extremely difficult. In one spread, Freeman uses the gutter to separate these four women from several white women, illustrating how the black and the white computers worked apart, used separate bathrooms, and ate in separate lunchrooms despite working on the same kinds of assignments. While Shetterly and co-author Conkling emphasize these women's tenacity, the picture-book lacks some aspects of their characters that the Hidden Figures film to which this is a companion captures well: their subversion, their senses of humor, and the community they built among black NASA employees as conditions improved. Their somber expressions throughout most of the illustrations imply that they found little enjoyment in their work, but their longevity at NASA suggests otherwise. Rich backmatter offers a timeline of historical events, biographies, a glossary, and an author's note from Shetterly.An important story to tell about four heroines, one that will lead young readers to the longer, more-nuanced coverage available when they are ready. (Informational picture book. 5-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Horn Book
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

With Winifred Cokling. A serviceable introduction to four African American women mathematicians who, despite discrimination, played vital roles for the U.S. in the 1960s space race. Although the illustrations are static, their rich, saturated colors provide interest. Shetterly's (author of the adult title, the basis for the movie) text barely scratches the surface of the women's stories, but she strives admirably to place their accomplishments within historical context. Timeline. Glos. (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An inside look at the World War IIera black female mathematicians who assisted greatly in the United States aeronautics industry.Shetterlys father, a 40-year veteran of what became Langley Research Center, used to tell her the stories of the black female computers who were hired in 1943 to work in the computing pool. The first female computing pool, begun in the mid-1930s, had caused an uproar; the men in the lab couldnt believe a female mind could process the rigorous math and work the expensive calculating machine. In 1941, Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, desegregating the defense industry and paving the way for Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and others to begin work in 1943. The author never fully explains what machine they were using, but it was likely more advanced than the comptometer. What is perfectly clear is that the women who were hired were crack mathematicians, either already holding masters degrees or destined to gain one. It was hard enough to be a woman in the industry at that time, but the black women who worked at Langley also had to be strong, sharp, and sufficiently self-possessed to be able to question their superiorsand that is just what they did. They sought information, offered suggestions, caught errors, and authored research reports. The stories are amazing not because the women were extremely smart, but because they fought for and won recognition and devotedly supported each others work. Their work outside the officeas Scout leaders, public speakers, and leaders of seminars to promote science and engineeringwas even more impressive. They were there from the beginning, perfecting World War II planes and proving to be invaluable to the nascent space program. Much of the work will be confusing to the mathematically disinclined, but their story is inspiring and enlightening. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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