Today, the House of Representatives considered and passed under suspension of the rules H.R. 1396, the “Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act.” This bill, cosponsored by 314 Members of Congress, awards the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’s highest civilian honor, to Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, Christine Darden, and all the women computers, mathematicians, and engineers at NASA, and its precursor organization the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), who devoted their talents in service to the United States from the 1930s to the 1970s through World War II, the Space Race, and the Cold War.
“In the early days of the space program, women and their talents were critically important but often overlooked,” said Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). “Women were typically not permitted to serve in any visible positions or recognized publicly for their contributions. Women of color faced the additional daily indignity of racial segregation. In spite of these challenges, these women chose to apply their considerable talents to help achieve what was arguably one of the nation’s crowning technological achievements, landing the first humans on the moon. The success of the NASA space program was due in large part to their brilliance, hard work, and perseverance in the face of adversity.”
“During the Space Race, pioneering women like Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Christine Darden were working in the background, making critical contributions as they overcame racial and gender barriers,” said Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK). “Their achievements in computing, engineering, programming, and aeronautics are all the more impressive given the challenges they faced. Awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal honors their lives and work and ensures they will continue to inspire Americans for years to come.”
“This is an exciting opportunity to honor the pioneering generation of female mathematicians for their commitment and service to NASA and to our country,” said Margot Lee Shetterly, author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. “The women who did this work came from across our country and each of their hometowns should embrace them as heroes.”