The real-life inspirations for Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson, Dr. Christine Darden, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, are set to receive Congressional Gold Medals. President Donald Trump signed the bill on November 8, awarding each individual woman the medal in recognition of their work, and an additional symbolic medal was awarded to all of the women who contributed to the success of NASA during the space race.
The Hidden Figures Congressional Medal act was co-sponsored by Sens. Chris Coons, Lisa Murkowski, and Kamala Harris, along with Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Frank Lucas. Harris, who is a presidential candidate for the Democratic party, commented on the bill’s passage in a press release.
“Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Dr. Christine Darden made monumental contributions to science and our nation,” said Harris. “The groundbreaking accomplishments of these four women, and all of the women who contributed to the success of NASA, helped us win the space race but remained in the dark far too long. I am proud our bill to honour these remarkable women has passed Congress. These pioneers remain a beacon for Black women across the country, both young and old."
The accomplishments of the women are numerous, including Johnson calculating trajectories that led to the first flight of a U.S astronaut, completed by John Glenn; Vaugn becoming the first Black supervisor at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the predecessor to NASA); Jackson becoming the first Black woman engineer at NASA; and Darden writing more than 50 articles on aeronautics design and becoming the first Black woman to be promoted to senior executive service at Langley.
The secretary of the treasury will determine the design for each of the Hidden Figures gold medals, with the medals being awarded posthumously to Jackson and Vaughn. As a result, Vaughan’s award will be displayed in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Jackson’s medal will be presented to her granddaughter, Wanda Jackson, CollectSpace reports. Johnson, who is 101, and Darden who is 75, are expected to receive their medals in a special ceremony.