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 President Harry Truman issued his executive order in 1948. Brown vs. the Board of Education, decided by the Supreme Court in 1954, declared segregated schools unconstitutional. President 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. The second woman upon whom she focuses is Katherine Goble Johnson.
Johnson entered West Virginia State College at the age of 15. After graduating with a degree in Mathematics, she began graduate coursework in this discipline. Marriage and the birth of her first child kept her from earning her master’s degree in Mathematics. But that did not stop her from eventually making her mark in Aeronautics.