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Notes and Thoughts for "Hidden Figures" Chapters 1-9

Good Afternoon To My Illustrious Book Club!

As I am reading "Hidden Figures," I often pause and try to imagine what you all are thinking and remembering about the "times" presented in this wonderful book. My thoughts make me believe that you have much to say, and I so wish I were there to learn from you. :)

I first saw the movie, entitled "Hidden Figures" a few years back, and then recently caught some of the movie again. It's a very good film; however, the book itself is exceptional. It's exceptional because the author, Margot Lee Shetterly is one of their own. From the very onset of the book, Ms. Shetterly makes her readers aware of how very much she is in tune with the comings and goings of the 60's & 70's due to her growing up in a well educated African American Family that resided in the nurturing community of Hampton, Virginia. Her very words, "As a child, I knew so many African Americans working in science, math, and engineering that I thought that's just what black folks did." The background knowledge/information about her immediate family that Margot Lee Shetterly shared, so totally drew her audience into wanting to learn about her purpose and her passion for writing "Hidden Figures." I might add that Ms. Shetterly's style of writing is so very good. She knows how to tell the story. Not really weaving the story, simply telling it with ease and with a wonderful understanding.

There's much to say about Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, and the many women who were "Hidden Figures" beginning as early as 1941. Before NASA(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) there was NACA(National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) and that's another whole story, as you all know. Their contributions and their dedication all came at a time when our country was thirsting for something more.

For our first discussion about "Hidden Figures" I would like to share my thoughts about Dorothy Vaughn. When Dorothy Vaughn was introduced in Chapter Two, her determination, her call to duty, and her fortitude seemed endless. In 1943, when the school year ended at Russa Moton, the Negro high school in Farmville, Virginia where Dorothy taught math, she immediately headed to Camp Pickett to earn extra monies during the school break. It was there at thirty-two years of age that she earned 40 cents an hour while sorting laundry, reuniting wayward socks and trousers with the laundry bags of the black and white soldiers who came to Camp Pickett by the trainload for four weeks of basic training before heading on to the Port of Embarkation in Newport News. I mention this very fact, because this was who Dorothy Vaughn was throughout her entire life...never taking anything for granted and for certain always wanting to be an an independent and self reliant soul. Being the mother of four children, married to and in a fine family in Farmville, Virginia, Dorothy and her family led a comfortable life in a large, rambling Victorian house on South Main Street with her husband's parents and grandparents. However, Dorothy Vaughn always wanted more-more education and always more learning. And this is what brought her to working with the white "East Computers" to write a textbook on algebraic methods for mechanical calculating machines that were their constant companions.

Dorothy Vaughn was brilliant. She was a kind and caring mother and made strong and wise decisions on behalf of her children. She was a fair person and carried that fairness into her marriage with her husband, Howard and his family. I believe these qualities became a part of Dorothy's life at a very young age. She was born in 1910 in Kansas City, Missouri. Her own mother died when she was just two years old. Her father, Leonard Johnson, a waiter, remarried. Dorothy's stepmother, Susie Peeler Johnson, worked as a charwoman(Cleaning Lady) at the Grand Union Station Train Depot to help support the family. She took Dorothy as her own daughter and pushed her to succeed, teaching the precocious girl to read before she entered school and to excel on multiple accounts. And she lived her entire life accepting no less than the best from herself. Dorothy Vaughn became the hope for so many.

Becoming the hope for so many...this is what the "Hidden Figures" truly aspired to.

Signing off for now..."Roger and Out!"



>> Some of the AFRH Book Club veterans responses:

Even with the high intellect of these women, discrimination was still occurring, from the “West Computers” to the sign for where the women would sit when they joined the Langley Laboratory. (I really like the story about Miriam Mann taking the sign and putting it in her purse!)

I didn’t know about the 1943 applications to Langley that banned photographs, so that the people could be picked for their intellect, rather than color. Also the story of Irene Morgan, who before Rosa Parks, wouldn’t sit in the back of the bus and was arrested. This ended with a law that banned this rule for interstate commuting.

Dorothy Vaughan was quite amazing. How sad, though, that she was apart from her husband so much, especially with 4 children. And to take engineering physics! (I have no idea what that is). And hey, we are back to running wind tunnels, just like in the Wright Brother’s book.

There are many names in this 1 st part, all who helped move this country ahead!


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