- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Hidden figures now have space in front of NASA’s headquarters in the District.

A sign at the corner at Third and E streets SW was renamed Hidden Figures Way on Wednesday in honor of the black women whose mathematical computations contributed to the success of the U.S. space program in the 1960s and ‘70s.

“This [street] sign is a powerful testament that anyone telling a little girl or a little boy, ‘You can’t do something,’ is not telling you the truth,” Sen. Ted Cruz said at the unveiling. “This is a monument that you can do anything.”

City officials including D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, and relatives of the women featured in the 2016 biography and film “Hidden Figures” attended the event, which resulted in part from bipartisan legislation introduced by Mr. Cruz. The Texas Republican said the newly renamed thoroughfare will serve as a reminder to children visiting NASA of the “unlimited human potential of all of us.”

Specifically, the event was held to honor mathematicians Katherine Johnson, the late Dorothy Vaughan, the late Mary Jackson and all other unsung women in the space program.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum participated by presenting a webcast featuring “Hidden Figures” biographer Margot Lee Shetterly and former NASA mathematician Christine Darden after the unveiling. The webcast was part of the museum’s “STEM in 30” series highlighting contributions by women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Ms. Darden, who figures prominently in Ms. Shetterly’s book, spoke of her experiences working in a male-dominated field and discovering her passion for math late in high school.

“The message I would give [to girls and women] is don’t let anyone tell you, ‘You can’t work for NASA.’ But at the same time, you need to realize that if you like math, like physics or science or engineering, that you have to take the classes — you got to learn how to do the work,” the 76-year-old said during the webcast.

“There are no excuses, but you can do the work. And that was how I felt as a child. I said if its a thousand pounds I have to lift then I’ll accept it, but don’t tell me that I can’t do it because I am female. The females have to hold their own weight, but you can absolutely do it,” said Ms. Darden, who specialized in studying sonic booms and supersonic flight in her 40-year career at NASA.

Ms. Shetterly, a native of Hampton, Virginia, explained that through her interviews for the biography and writing process, she learned not only some of the math and science but also how to not take no for an answer.

“Again, and again, when I would do the research and talk to these women and interview them, the women who moved forward and really moved up in the ranks, simply refused to take no for an answer,” the author said during the webcast. “And I think that is an important lesson for all of us.”

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