World War II pushed many women into the workforce. Traditionally finding jobs as teachers and nurses, this war created opportunities few women considered possible. Shining a light on women of African descent during this period, these women encountered even greater challenges. Integration of the military did not occur until Truman issued his executive order in 1948. Brown vs. the Board of Education, decided by the Supreme Court in 1954, declared segregated schools unconstitutional. Kennedy led the charge to establish the Civil Rights bill of 1963, which made clear that discrimination based upon race, color, religion, sex or national origin was illegal.
Before any of these seminal decisions, women of African descent worked against the grain to take pivotal positions in the workforce. Highlighting the accomplishments of a few incredibly intelligent women, Margot Lee Shetterly penned the book behind the movie Hidden Figures. First of the women upon which she focuses is Dorothy Johnson Vaughn.
Dorothy Johnson Vaughn attended Wilberforce University (Wilberforce, Ohio) on a full scholarship. She graduated in 1929 with a degree in mathematics. Howard University (Washington D.C.) offered the opportunity to complete a masters in mathematics, but she elected a masters in education in order to help her family financially.
In October 1958, the US government combined all competing space operations into NACA, and changed its name from NACA to NASA.