Margot Lee Shetterly is the woman responsible for bringing the story Hidden Figures to the masses. Margot grew up in Hampton, Virginia and since her dad worked at NASA, she was surrounded with black women in STEM in her youth. In fact, she personally knew the protagonists of her novel, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. Because of her curiosity about their stories, and her willingness to do the work of documenting them, we all now have the gift of knowing about unsung heroes in the space program. Her novel was adapted into the beautiful film of the same name starring Taraji P. Hensen, Octavia Spencer, & Janelle Monae.
In her own words:
I’m the author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (William Morrow/HarperCollins). I’m also the founder of The Human Computer Project, an endeavor that is recovering the names and accomplishments of all of the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers at the NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s.
I’m a Hampton, Virginia native, University of Virginia graduate, an entrepreneur, and an intrepid traveler who spent 11 years living in Mexico. I currently live in Charlottesville, VA. –margotleeshetterly.com
I had the good fortune to see Margot speak today. She talked about the importance of “looking beyond” not just when facing challenges, but also when encountering people or looking at history. I took away this quote as a favorite: “Looking beyond is our first responsibility, but it is not our only responsibility. Our next obligation is to tell their stories.” Had Margot not felt this obligation, only those in close proximity to their lives would have treasured the contributions of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. Now, their genius and bravery are celebrated around the world. As more people catch Ms. Shetterly’s infectious curiosity and decide to take action, we can take more steps toward filling out the real record of American history.
I spoke with Ms. Shetterly briefly after her talk and asked her “What’s next for you? More stories?” True to the tag line on her website (Research. Write. Repeat.) she immediately replied, “Yes, more stories.” For that continued commitment, and for inspiring the curiosity in millions of people to find other hidden figures, thank you Margot Shetterly!
Featured Image photo credit: Aran Shetterly