WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

| By Traci Cothran |

How wonderful is it that following the release of the movie “Hidden Figures,” the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson are now known by millions?  Their collective story is an impressive and important one, yet it’s a part of our history that’s been concealed for decades.

What other significant contributions by women are also shielded from view?  It’s a joy to uncover these gems, and allow them to inspire other women and girls today.  To me, that’s what Women’s History Month is all about—shining a light on the often overlooked contributions made by women throughout history.

Here are just a few, randomly chosen women from today and yesterday whose work and lives are notable.  You’ll find them all in Biography In Context, among other Gale resources.  As you read about them, you’re bound to discover other interesting women, too!

Maria Tallchief – (1925-2013) Tallchief was the first American-born woman to achieve prima ballerina status at a major dance company; she was also a member of the Osage Nation.  She’s featured this month in Research In Context.

Zora Neale Hurston – (1891-1960) A writer and major figure in the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston is a favorite of mine, for both her wonderful writing and her ability to live an unconventional life for women of her era.

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Hidden No Longer

By Debra Kirby

Sometimes it takes a critically acclaimed movie to shine a light on extraordinary achievements. This has proved to be especially true when the subjects of those achievements are women or members of minorities. The movie Hidden Figures, based on a book of the same name, has recently generated interest in three African American women who played important roles in the U.S. Apollo Space Program. As is often the case, once you start digging into the details around historic events or people, you discover many related interesting facts and stories. When your sources include Gale databases you can spend hours exploring and learning.

Here are some of the facts I found when I began my journey to learn more about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—the fascinating women whose stories are told in Hidden Figures.

  • Katherine Johnson began her career as a “human computer” at the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), NASA’s predecessor. Before the age of electronic computers, NACA employed hundreds of women mathematicians as human computers. Men with similar qualifications were classified as professionals; women were sub-professionals. Black mathematicians were segregated in their own office and loaned out to various divisions as needed. (Read more about Johnson in Biography In Context.)

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