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Mary Winston Jackson, NASA Engineer

2019-02-11 | 🔗

Jackson is most well known as the first black woman to become an engineer at NASA. But she also worked to clear the way for other underrepresented people at NASA, in particular black women.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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to become an engineer at nasa and she's been on my list for an episode while we have a collection about women in stem fields but we haven't talked specifically about a woman engineer and she really hasn't gotten as much recognise as some of the other women who are featured and hidden figures such as catherine johnson who calculated the trajectory for the united states first human space flight and celebrated her hundredth birthday in august of twenty eighteen but i didn't realize until i got into this episode just much mary jackson also works to clear the way for other underrepresented people at nasa i mean she changed the terrain behold direction of her career to do this in particular should have a lot to try to make more room for black men in the ranks of nasa engineers that made me even more excited to talk about her today dash pre great and mary jackson started
working as a computer at the national advisory committee for aeronautics or the end i see a years before it was absorbed into nasa so before we get to her specifically we have to up and talk a little bit about human computers if it sounds weird for you to say someone worked as a computer that is what they are human peters and how langley memorial aeronautical laboratory now known as langley research centre came to have a segregated pool of human computers in the nineteen forties there were surely people doing this kind of work and other parts of the world as well but our focus today is really on europe and north america an english the word comes peter to mean a person who makes calculations or computation goes all the way back to the early seventeenth century many of these early can heaters where men they were apprentices and assistants who were doing this work as part of their education and training to become say an astronomer or an engineer but
women have played a really important part two especially the wives and sisters and daughters of astronomers and physicists and other scientists some of whom were scientists in their own right these women did calculations to support the research their male family members often without ever getting the credit for it one example is mathematician and astronomer nicole randal report whose husband john on play was france's royal clockmaker she were the astronomer joseph blonde and mathematician alexey clear who to calculate the return of holly's comment in seventeen fifty eight milan later said quote for six months we made calculations from dawn to dusk sometimes even during the meals the help give
by madame the boat with such that without her i would not have been able to complete such a colossal enterprise but when clara publish their findings which were far more accurate than previous predictions had been he did not acknowledged reports work at all the harvard college observatory started hiring women as assistance toward the end of the nineteenth century they cared for glass plates that were used to record images of the night sky i am they analyzed and recorded the images from those plates classifying the stars and compiling the data observatory director edward charles pickering in particular started hiring a whole group of women computers in eighteen eighty one they were nickname pickerings harem which was not a particularly nice nickname and nods to sort of a perception that one of the reasons that some of these departments were all women was because the man in charge
wanted to be surrounded by young women you don't talk about that as much and other reasons why there were women status of computers but that was a thing that there was at least the perception was going on one of the computers at the harvard college observatory was any job cannon who develop the method for classifying star that is still used today during world war to hundreds of women worked as computers at the u s armies ballistic research laboratory doing the math for the firing tables for rockets and artillery this income its civilian women with degrees in math or science as well as women from the women's army core women workers compete is that the manhattan project that los alamos national laboratory as well some women with math or physics degrees who had been recruited for that work and others were the wives of other los alamos employees thanks to hidden
today the idea of a whole department of human computers is heavily associated with langley and the space race but within the i see a computing departments weren't unique to langley other an icy facilities had them as well they also significantly predate the space programme langley created its first computer pool in nineteen thirty five hiring five women as computers these women did their calculi since by hand with the help of slide rules mathematical tables and mechanical calculators before the computing pool with fabulous langleys engineers and scientists have been performing all of their calculations themselves and i'd your wise but moving the calculating work over to a dedicated department could free up those men to focus on the science and engineering while also making the process of computing faster and more accurate that's also why all of those wartime departments were women because the men were needed to go to college
roles at first many of the men who had previously done their own calculations resisted this idea and doubted whether women could do the necessary mass but the creation computing group had exactly the outcome the organisation had been looking for it was faster and more accurate plus since women were hired for the positions they could be paid much less than the engineers and scientists whose work they were absorbing course we are not endorsing that backed with italy administrators liked it has a lot to unpack the unfortunate but that was part of the logic train yeah computing also considered a sub professional position while engineering was a professional one so the top of the ranks for a computer with mathematician and that was equivalent to an entry level position for a male engineer so in other words the top of the computing ranks lined up with the bottom of the engines
ranks and that brings us to how this job occupied a complicated spot in the grand scheme of things often women computers were paid signal currently more than they might have been in other work that was open to them think things like teaching school but at the same hi many of the women who were hired to be computers were overqualified for the job and as we just talked about we're handling work that had previously been done by men who were higher in the org chart because the computer where women and their jobs were seen as subordinate to those of male engineers they also face sex them in a way that they might not have in other industries these disparities became even more pronounced when langleys did recruiting black women to work as computers and july of
in forty one franklin d roosevelt signed executive order eighty eight o to which said in part quote there shall be no discrimination and the employment of workers in defence industries and in government because of race creed color or national origin as executive order followed extensive advocacy a fillip randolph and other black labour and civil rights leaders and it also established the fair employment practices committee to make sure that order was enforced this executive order came as the united states was preparing for war the previous may the president had called for the u s to build fifty thousand aircraft this was a dramatic increase in aircraft production up from fewer than one hundred airplanes a month langley was where aircraft manufacturers were having their high
formats aircraft tested and improved langley engineers would put aircraft through test flights and wind tunnels and evaluate their performance and suggest improvements and refinements on the design the goal was to make aircraft safer faster and more effective so when the president made this call for more aircraft that gave langley a lot more to do and the i had to hire a lot more people across the facility to do it the expansion was so huge and dramatic that it led to a housing crisis in the area around langley addressed in part by building a dormitory too how some of the women a three hundred seventy two unit dorm opened in the summer of nineteen forty three with the house mother who locked everything
at eleven p m at first a lot of these new hires were white candidates but before long there just work enough white candidates to fill out the jobs many of which were intended to be temporary wartime positions and not long term careers so after executive eighty eight or to the administration at the end i see a started actively recruiting black candidates to fill these jobs langley had black employees before this point but mostly doing things like janitorial work and grounds keeping and food service this was the first time that langley had recruited black employees for professional and some professional roles although the executive order borrowed discrimination in hiring
junior we're langley is located was still racially segregated by law so this newly hired group of black computers who started work in nineteen forty three were placed in a segregated section known as the west computing group or just the west group in which black women reported to white supervisors also meant adding segregated restrooms and a segregated area of the lunchroom segregation was so strictly maintained that many of the white computers and lab employees didn't realize that the west group existed there is one computer nay marry a man who made it a point of repeat lee removing the colored computer sign that was used to mark the blacks only part of the cafeteria she would just basically take it and put it in her purse and leave and a few days later it would show back up on the table again and all the computers were like we know we know this is where you want us to sit we know this is our designated area you don't have to keep pointing it out to us and her husband was like
they're going to fire you miriam was kind of like they're gonna have to write it kept doing it until they finally stop putting the sign there i'm like that would be a firing well earned in my opinion we mentioned a few minutes ago how a woman might be better pay is a computer than she had been while working at another job while still being for qualified for that computing job this was particularly true for black women many had done exceptionally well in their study of math and had advanced degrees years of experience teaching math and science both many but certainly not all of the white computers did not they might have a math degree but little to no experience beyond college additional teaching was really one of the most prestigious jobs that was available to black women in the nineteen forties within their communities black teachers were real regarded with a lot of respect and admiration and the increase in pay but keep between working as a teacher and working as
computer could be even more dramatic for black computers than it was for white ones black teachers were well bingley taught in segregated schools for black children and they tend to have poorer facilities and much lower pay than the schools for white children but once they got lange leave these women were just a computer they were and looked down on by the engineers whose calculations they work carrying out although the women hired is computers quickly enjoyed am and excelled at math other people perceive that work as tedious drudgery economic feel like a simultaneous step up and step down and for many of the women the fact that we're doing critical wartime work at a facility is prestigious langley but still being cedric did by their race was even or darling it was but later but still into the same world that mary jackson stepped when she got hired to work at langley and we will get to her after a sponsor break
ebay i thought you weren't leasing apparent today sounds like you're at football me yeah why use rodeo deletes the car you know it's up i was telling you about we can choose from hundreds of local cars right from your phone ok and the price is crystal clear all taxes and geezer included discounts negotiated then deliver the car to your house just watching the game while i pick a car so get this straight you are on the road or at least a car it was so easy triggered by catch football game
i think you understand it got to go it's fourth down and i'm debating between a sedan or hatchback by welcome to the future of car leasing on the roto app you can choose from hundreds of cars right in your area we give you crystal clear pricing include discount taxes and fees will even drive your car to your house if easy it's clear it's roto mary taxes was born mary winston on april ninth nineteen twenty one in hampton virginia not far away from langley she was from a large family and her parents ella and frank winston were exe emily focused on making sure all of their children got a good education and we're really good citizens and role models mary attended high school at george p phoenix training school which was on the campus of hampton institute which is now hampton university hampton institute has actually come up on the show before most recently it is
susan le flesh picard continued her studies before going to medical school and becoming the first native american woman in the u s to earn an m d hampton institute was founded in eighteen sixty eight to teach trade and industrial skills to freed people as well as to train them to become teachers by the nineteen twenty that had become a college with numerous courses of study the city of hampton didn't provide education for black children beyond elementary school so the hampton institute had established phoenix training school for that purpose mary graduated from phoenix with highest honours and went on to college at the hampton institute she expected that she would become a teacher but she pushed her so to finish a double major in mathematics and physical science even that was a far more strenuous course of study than she would need to teach she he waited in nineteen forty two and was soon hired as a teacher at a segregated school for black students in maryland
about a year later mary move back home her father had become ill and she came back to help look after him but she found that she couldn't get a teaching job back in hampton two of her sisters already teaching in hampton and there were nepotism rules that kept her from being able to join them so she had to find a job somewhere else she started out as the secretary at the king street u s so doing everything from keeping the books to acting as a hostess the king street usa was one of the many u s o centres established to serve black members of the military the usa had a policy of serving the entire military regardless of race but a lot of places had segregated usa centres for reasons ranging from black service members requesting them to jim crow laws requiring them mary worked at the king street u s ale until the end of world war two and it was there that she met her huh
only by jackson who was a servicemen from alabama they got married and nineteen forty four men in nineteen forty six they had their first child together a son who was also namely by throughout this jackson was active with the bethel amy church where she and her family had long been members she also start serving as a leader for the churches girl scout troop which she would do for about thirty years she did not yet have a daughter her daughter care and was born several years later but she loved the girl scouts she was a teacher a mentor and a big sister for the girls in the troop many whom or from working class and poor families with parents who did agricultural or domestic work while she was working as the girl scout leader jackson started doing something that would also be a hallmark of her time at nasa and before that the usa she really wanted the girls that she worked with to see what was planned
the ball beyond what was familiar to or expected of them and she wanted to open as many doors for them ass she could so she arranged all kinds of field trips and projects aligned with all the various merit badges to really try to broaden their experience of the world and encourage them that really ambitious goals for themselves later on jack than would also play a key role in integrating the black and white girl scout councils in the area until one integrated council in her part of virginia jackson returned to work when levi junior returned for she applied for a clerical position the offer from the army came first and she worked there for a few months before being offered the computer job at langley where the army agreed her skills leave where the army agreed her skills would be of better use she
furniture job as one of the west area computers on april fifth one thousand nine hundred and fifty one at the age of twenty six that was just a few months after dorothy vaughan became the head of the west area computers having started out as one of the west areas mathematicians the slave on the first supervisor at langley this was almost three years after president harry truman had signed executive nine thousand nine hundred and eighty and ninety nine eighty one that happened on july 26th one thousand nine hundred and forty eight and ordered the desegregation of the federal workforce and the us armed forces but segregation was still required by law in virginia that had not changed so in jackson started work at langley the west era computers were still in the words of administrative officer campbell johnson quote composed entirely of negro women the restroom and cafeteria facilities were also still segregated
it had however become a lot more common for the west area computers to be assigned out to other departments at langley for periods of days two months to work on specific project this became more and more common as the white east area computers shrank in number as their members were promoted or permanently transferred into other departments in nineteen fifty three after two years in the west computing group mary jackson was assigned to a project on langleys east side along with several white compete nurse jackson didn't know the lay out of the buildings on the east side at all and when she asked her coworkers from that side of the campus for directions to the restroom they pointedly told but they did not know where her restroom was jackson with frustrated and angry not just about the insult of her bathroom and the dismissive blade and her colleagues to talk to her but also about being a second class citizen at langley because
her race even though she was a computer and she had more experience than some of our colleagues did later that day she ran into kashmir as zackie who worked at langley supersonic pressure tunnel he asked how she was doing and she answered him firstly from a number of angles it was socially unacceptable for a black person to unload their feelings on a white person especially when it came to racism and discrimination and it's not entirely clear whether jackson had just gone so fed up that she lost her temper or whether she had perceives our nike who had emigrated from poland as someone it was safe to be candid with but either way sir nike asked her why she didn't come work for him and she agreed to and this was before he learned that she had majored in both math and science we don't want to apply that the
racial disparities in the who it's ok to like vent feelings too we like we don't want to imply that there was disparities are gone but that was what was happening at the time so jackson really made a name for herself almost immediately in this and this new department when she completed some calculations were john becker who was the chief of the compress ability division and was multiple rungs up the ladder above tsar nike jackson's final members didn't look quite right and becker insisted that they were wrong but jackson insisted that they were right that turned out the jackson had done all the calculations flawlessly but the data that becker had given hurt us with was wrong this earn her an apology and praise not only for her skill but also her confidence and her insight czarnecki soon suggested jackson join the engineer training programme dna i had very few women engineers at all and no black women engineers the engineer training programmes
required after work classes from the university of virginia which were held at hampton high school which was still whites only aim so to take the needed courses to become an engineer jackson had to get a special dispensation from the city of hampton to allow her to take the class that she needed she did and in nineteen fifty eight after she finished her courses mary jackson was promoted to engineer this made her the initiated first black woman engineer and possibly the first black women working as an aeronautical engineer anywhere in the united states nineteen fifty it was a year of big changes at langley and we're gonna get to those after we first pause for another sponsor break hey jack you so you having found a little patrick's work they hardly yeah two year olds an age i'm really sorry i have to go though unleashing a car so i gotta get all those dealerships you now you should get the roadway rode out it lets you lisa car where from your phone book oh wow that's really cool obey
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and other similar organisations were merged together into the national aeronautics and space administration or nasa as part of that whole process the west area computing group which at that point was the last segregated department and organisers and was finally formerly disbanded there were only nine employees of the west computers by then including dorothy yvonne you had been running it for seven years at that point those remaining computers were moved to various generic groups around langley involved one of the ones who started working with the ibm computers that were gradually making human computers obsolete women who been working with mathematical tables and mechanical calculators began working with punch cards instead mathematicians were gradually replaced by data analysts and the teams working with the ibm computers were integrated in terms of both
ace engender although overtime more and more of the data analysts were young men mary jackson co authored her first paper and nineteen fifty eight as well effects of nose angle and mocked number on transition on cones supersonic speeds she continued to work with there is a key at the super sonic pressure tunnel in addition to her work as an engineer jackson informally mentored women and minorities especially the ones who are hoping to get promoted into engineering roles in a way she was rebel hating and building on something that has always existed at the west computing group because they were segregated from the white staff the west computing group had developed a deep network of support and resources among themselves this the tools to try to mitigate some of the racial discrimination that they faced on the job something that black men who were scattered across the organization could struggle with so as jackson men toward people she tried to maintain that support network including connecting to the former
asked group computers who are now working in other parts of the organization of the space race wound down and the u s aeronautics industry became less focused on the idea of super sonic transport langley went through numerous reorganise and reductions in force jackson continued to work in the super sonic pressure tunnels specializing in how air behaves in proximity to supersonic aircraft she took classes in the programming language for transit well to work with ibm computers as well but eventually her career hit a glass ceiling staff but langley were paid according to the civil service pay scale known as the g s scale which ranks people in pay grades from one to fifteen jackson got up to gs twelve which were top of the non management scale for her role there were very few women at langley ingrate gs thirteen or above and jackson no matter how hard she worked she just could not get to that next level in
nineteen seventy nine kashmir is tsar nike tired and by that point jackson had written or co written twelve technical publications for nasa and its predecessor but right rather than continuing to struggle for another promotion that seem like it would just never calm she decided to change directions a position opened up as langleys federal women's programme manager this was a role that would let jackson focus on what she had been doing and formally as well as the committees that she had been at work and it was also a demotion down to yes eleven which she willingly accepted for the sake of helping other people in nineteen eighty one offered the role of equal opportunity specialist and she went to washington dc to train for it she spent the last years of her career at nasa focused on making sure women and minorities have equal opportunities at langley in these roles jackson took a more formal approach to the mentoring that she had been doing while she was
an engineer she realized but a lot of people who seem like they were being overlooked for promotions had basically the same degree and experiences their peers but they might be missing one particular course or one specific skill she started intentionally seeking out people who fit this pattern touring encourage them to go take that one class they needed to close the gap that pay particular attention to women in the lower ranks of the organization you had the right skills and background otherwise to become an engineer she also kept this focus outside of work working as a girl scout leader and doing extensive lecturing and workshops at high schools in her area demonstrating for students that neither engineering nor langley was a world reserved only for white men she set of this work quote some
they are not aware of the number of black scientists and don't even know of the career opportunities until it is too late jackson retired from langley and nineteen eighty five she kept up her volunteer community and church work retiring and she died on february eleventh two thousand five at the age of eighty three she died in a retirement home in hampton virginia and was survived by her children as well as grandchildren and great grandchildren in twenty eighteen the salt lake city board of education unanimously voted that jackson elementary school in salt lake city previously named for president andrew jackson would be renamed mary w jackson elementary school that's amy air the u s than it passed the hidden figures congressional gold medal act which would a word the congressional gold medal to catherine johnson dorothy von mary jackson and doktor christine garden door was the first black person of any gender to be promoted to the senior executives service at langley the house referred the bill to a committee in november of twenty eight
i love when we are recording this which is the end of january twenty nineteen there have not been further updates on it perhaps unsurprisingly given what january was like in the government that is true oh mary i love her so much indeed two if you want to learn more about the computers and more about like lie at langley during all this time really do go red hidden figures you can also if you like go amuse yourself by reading the one star reviews of the book hidden figures by people who clearly thought they were signing up to read a novel ah what things like this book introduces ten new characters in a paragraph and then just never followed up on the big i was weren't characters honey they were poor people with their hearts
these people have listener may offer us maybe i have a couple pieces of listener may they are about the shrewder so just a heads up we can talk will be about surgery we heard from a couple people they did not enjoy hearing the descriptions of surgery and that episode the first thing is a quick a correction that came in from dave dave pointed out that we talked about one of the reasons people might have needed a nose reconstruction was because of late stage syphilis and how as he understood it when such router was doing his writing and teaching that wouldn't have been an issue in india it is true that the most mainstream idea about how syphilis spread to europe and beyond as that it came back from the americas with christopher columbus expeditions after there was the ito transit between europe and north america
that has been the very long standing assumption which i think we ve had a couple things on earth that suggest it might not have worked quite that way but yes i conflated two different pieces of material to get something that did not make a lot of sense by the time the british were writing down things about this whole knows reconstruction they are witnessing at that point there would have been people that might have tried to have their nose reconstructed because of having late stage syphilis but that would not likely have been the case based on wind so shrewder was writing we also have something from marcello i hope i am pronouncing her name correctly this email says dear esteemed s why i m historians i am a long time been first time collar who happens to be a facial plastic surgeon in brazil specialised in nasal reconstruction i loved your most recent episode on shore
and i are beta which most of us read at some point during our residency training as i usually love all your episodes purer few answers to your questions we still use the so called indian forehead flap as what can be easily called de workhorse of our neither reconstructions except as a bit modified from its original central position into what's more scientifically termed a para median forehead flap
its most important advantage over the cheek advancement flap allegedly practised by shrewder or even the forearm peddled flap practised by the bull and aids is that its political is based on an arterial blood supply i e the supernatural clear artery which ensures a markedly diminish chance of tissue in a crisis of the most distant portion of the flap furthermore that bears the advantage of being more versatile allowing for much better contouring a finer structures of the nasal tipp that allows for the semblance of a natural knows mostly because of the availability of more tissue from the forehead and or scout that can be harvested without the forming than
by facial spectres like but i am because of that are truly based guaranteed a blood supply as a rule of thumb the longer a flap is the less blood is supplied to its most distant regions within arterial blood supply embedded into the petticoat flap there is much more a range of blood supply to these distort regions however we do still use cheek advancement flaps for certain defects in the nose mostly to the nasal sidewise and some smaller defects on the nasal bosom the italian flap obviously offers the advantage of west scars on the face but because such scars can be so well managed and offers no extra advantage over locally based petticoat flaps will you be hard pressed to find any certain using bat technique today there are other flaps as well not is frequently used though nor more dependable than the modified indian forehead flap keep up the great work and thanks for all historical knowledge i hope to have a great trip cheers thank you so much for this email we have gotten several emails answering
were of questions from mr schroeder episode and this one is a little longer so we might read other ones that a future episode at this as very delighted at how many surgeons were like i can help you with this when you got no logical emails from surgeons i'm glad somebody's thirtyth are listening you and enjoying the show glad i remember pretty much all of that medical terminology that i just read from the time i took anatomy and physiology which feel like a feat giving how much knowledge my brain just jettisoned in her oh yeah part on the daily i loose i always feel bad when someone asked me something about a show and i don't even remember doing michaud at all gas they'll be like oh did you ever think about i'm like i know don't even now i did i think about that ever i dont maybe i guess you did i am i feel very bad my apologies if you ever talk to and i dont know yes you up
rumour wits topic it wise but as i was wrapping up my time hosting this day in history class i was looking for the outline for a stuffy you missed in history class episode that like that thing was that day in history and i couldn't find it on my computer and i can't figure out why and i was like but i wrote this why don't i have it i didn't write it you wrote it i got it confused with a totally different topic but i did right deadlier anyway that's our brains work everyone after years and years you can't remember all the details of every show no no but if you remember details of shows that he would like to read as an email about them were at him
three part gas housetop works dot com and then we're oliver social media missed in history that's where you binder facebook and our pinterest that our instagram and our twitter you can come to our website which as mr history dot com you can find the show notes for all the upsets hauling i have worked on you can find suitable archive every episode ever and you can find information about our trip to terrorists coming up in june and you can subscribe to our shadow odd pod gas but i hurt radio and anywhere else you get your podcast for more on this and thousands of other topics visit housetop works dot com class welcome to car leasing one o one first take your phones and go into roto app next big car
now you'll see simple crystal clear pricing ok that's it any questions yes jackson we so that's it that's it so enjoy today so we welcome to the future of leasing rode away you choose from hundreds of cars the lease the pricing is crystal clear and will deliver the car right to your house so down the road map or go to roto dotcom today
Transcript generated on 2020-01-14.