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#WCWinSTEM: Margot Lee Shetterly

#WCWinSTEM: Margot Lee Shetterly


This week’s #WCWinSTEM is Margot Lee Shetterly, author of #HiddenFigures.

As compiled by Chrystelle Vilfranc

We are culminating our #VSDoesHF #WCWinSTEM with a feature of the woman behind it all: Margot Lee Shetterly.

Shetterly is the author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, which has since been made into a movie (lookout for film releases at a theatre near you). Shetterly is a native of Hampton, Virginia. She graduated from the University of Virginia then went on to work on Wall Street. She is a 2014 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow. Shetterly is the founder of The Human Computer Project, which is a digital archive that involves uncovering 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-1980s.

Growing up in Hampton with a father who was one of the early generation Black NASA engineers and scientists, Shetterly had great access to the #HiddenFigures. She grew up around Hampton College, where most of the #HiddenFigures had studied. Her dad and many of their neighbors and friends, including African-American women, had worked at NASA. She was no stranger to the Human Computers. They were a group composed of African-American female mathematicians who had joined the NACA (now NASA) during World War II. These ladies were paid less than their male counterparts. However, these women played a tremendous role in John Glenn’s historic mission into orbit. The human computers helped lay down the foundation for many great projects, including the American moon landing. They truly helped place America as the lead in the space race.


Shetterly has recalled the time when she was first inspired to write about the #HiddenFigures. Her dad was telling stories of the women when she realized her husband was not familiar with these stories. She was not entirely familiar with the whole story herself. She decided to do more investigation of Katherine Johnson, who was the most well known. This led to her discovery of more of the women. It seemed like folks should have known about the human computers. Shetterly has told UVA Today, “These women were African-American women living in the South, during Jim Crow laws, who became part of a larger group of professional mathematicians.” So boss! Shetterly hopes that the story of these #HiddenFigures will change our perceptions on #WhatDoesAScientistLookLike. Man are we glad to have access to such a great story! Someone had to tell the story, and we are so grateful that it was you! Check out the book, look out for the movie! In case you may have missed last night’s episode, stay tuned!

Thank you Margot Lee Shetterly for telling this story. It will reach many in the world of#STEM! 

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