Mary Jackson

Hidden Figures



Mary Jackson, played by Janelle Monae, left, Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson, and Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer. The women are stars of the new movie”Hidden Figures.” These women were trailblazers for women working in NASA.

Adhiti Chundur, Print Editor-in-Chief

Mary Winston Jackson was born in 1921 and grew up in Hampton VA. From a young age, she nurtured love of science and the world around her. In 1942 she graduated from the Hampton Institute with a dual degree in Math and Physical Sciences. After WWII she worked as a math teacher, a receptionist, a bookkeeper, and an army secretary before taking a job at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory’s segregated West Area Computing section in 1951- her supervisor was Dorothy Vaughn.
In 1958, Jackson entered a training program that would allow her to be eligible for a promotion from mathematician to engineer. After getting special permission to join her white peers, she became NASA’s first black female engineer.
Jackson worked as an engineer for the next two decades, overcoming discrimination for both her race and gender and helping other young women launch into careers of their own.
In 1979, Jackson, tired of staying in the same position and frustrated with the lack of promotions, she took a demotion and transferred to become the Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager, nurturing the next generation of women mathematicians, engineers, and scientists. Jackson died at the age of 83 in 2005.
She is portrayed by actress Janelle Monae in the film “Hidden Figures,” which delves into the careers of Jackson and her colleagues Katherine Johnson and  Vaughan.