Mary W. Jackson was born on April 9, 1921, in Hampton, Virginia, during the segregation era.
And despite discrimination running rampant throughout the country, Mary went on to distinguish herself as an invaluable asset to mathematics and science.
She first graduated high school with high honors before earning a dual degree in physical science and mathematics from the Hampton Institute in 1942.
And following a one-year stint as a math teacher in Maryland, Mary began working at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).
She would later become the first African American female engineer at NASA– paving the way for other Black women in the predominantly white and male-dominated fields of STEM.
Mary cultivated her engineering career for about twenty years and led programs that specifically focused on the hiring and promotion of women within NASA’s STEM sectors.
She eventually retired in 1985 before passing away in 2005. But, her contributions to STEM and civil rights live on today.
In 2019, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine posthumously presented Mary with a Congressional Gold Medal– the highest expression of national appreciation provided by Congress.
NASA; pictured above is Mary