Hidden Figures the biopic telling the story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson was released on Friday and One Giant Read HQ was first in the queue to see it.
Focusing on everything we are striving to champion throughout the project, this film celebrates diversity, discovery and development. Highlighting the incredible work of three hidden women who worked on NASA’s space programme in the 1960s, this film showcases the women in STEM who changed the landscape of human spaceflight for America.
Set against the backdrop of segregated Virginia, we are introduced to three central protagonists who are all geniuses in their fields. Specialists in the field of mathematics and engineering respectively, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson work at NASA’s Langley Research Center in the West Computing Area as ‘human computers’. These women are involved in tasks such as calculating flight trajectories of test flights and prospective human space flight missions as NASA attempt to win the ‘space race’ to send the first human into space. As the mission which will bring the United States one step closer to this goal draws closer, the lives of these three women changes forever as each is given (or creates for herself) an essential role in the forward motion of the space programme.
Katherine is tasked with ‘creating mathematics’ as part of the Space Task Group, Mary pursues with relentless passion, a career in engineering that she would already have if she were a man and Dorothy, on hearing that machines are soon to replace the division she works for, tasks herself and the women she works with to learn the ‘language’ of the machines, thus making herself indispensable to the future development of the programme. Throughout the film, there is a strong focus on self-belief and determination which I found thoroughly inspirational.
The genius and invaluable status of these women within the space programme is brought into sharp focus as one watches the film and nowhere is it clearer than at the film’s end, but this genius is pitted against the time period, the politics and the attitudes of society during which it is set. These women and the 17 others like them in the West Computing area are constantly fighting to be heard in an environment wherein their expertise could and does mean the success of human space flight missions and successful re-entry and landing and as a viewer it is difficult not to feel their frustrations and become emotionally involved in their triumphs.
During the film, I found myself pondering how different the world and indeed the space industry is today and I could not fail to notice how this seemed to stem back to the work of Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson. When I had finished watching the film, I thought about the triumphs of women in science and space such as Mae Jemison and Peggy Whitson and I couldn’t help feeling a need to celebrate their achievements. What this film does, whilst telling a very specific story, is put the focus on to women, celebrating their education, their achievements and sheer drive to succeed and cannot think of a film which is timelier.
At its heart, Hidden Figures tells the inspirational story of three influential women in the space industry, but more than this, it tells a story of what can be achieved by remaining unified and determined. Hidden Figures these women are no more and I for one will certainly be delving deeper into the work of these amazing women of the space programme. A thoroughly recommended watch.
Hidden Figures is in UK cinemas now.
Watch this behind the scenes featurette to find out more about the film.