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Alexeyeva Smith
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Yogi | Traveler | Reader | Walker | Runner | Powered by plants | Music junkie | Sports chick | Fan of 'please' and 'thank you'
Yogi | Traveler | Reader | Walker | Runner | Powered by plants | Music junkie | Sports chick | Fan of 'please' and 'thank you'

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02.21.17. Meet Barbara Jordan (1936–1996), Civil Rights Activist, U.S. Representative. Barbara Jordan was a U.S. congressional representative from Texas and was the first African American congresswoman to come from the Deep South.

Barbara Jordan attended Texas Southern University and continued her studies at Boston University Law School.

- In 1966, she won a seat in the TX legislature, becoming the first black woman to do so. She sought to improve the lives of her constituents by helping usher through TX's 1st law on minimum wage. She also worked to create the Texas Fair Employment Practices Commission.
- In 1972, her fellow lawmakers voted her in as president pro tempore of the state senate. Jordan became the first African American woman to hold this post.
- In 1972, Barbara Jordan was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, she stood as a moral compass during the Watergate scandal; calling for the impeachment of President Nixon for his involvement in this illegal political enterprise.
- In 1976, Barbara Jordan captured the public's attention with her keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, stating, "My presence here . . . is one additional bit of evidence that the American dream need not forever be deferred."
- In 1979, she did not seek re-election, as she was diagnosed with MS. She took some time to reflect on her life and political career, and wrote the book Barbara Jordan: A Self-Portrait (1979).
- In 1982, she accepted a professorship at the University of TX at Austin where she became the Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial Chair of Public Policy.
- In 1991, she served as a special counsel on ethics for TX Governor Ann Richards.
- In 1992, she took the national stage to deliver a speech at the Democratic National Convention.
- In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Barbara Jordan to head up the Commission on Immigration Reform; and honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

- She passed away in 1996 in Austin; of pneumonia- a complication of her battle with leukemia.

Today, Feb 21st, would have been her 81st birthday.

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02.17.17. Meet Shirley Ann Jackson FREng (1946-present), phsyicist and the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (a major research university in NY). She received her Ph.D. in nuclear physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973, becoming the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT. Dr. Jackson was also the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in theoretical solid state physics; to be elected president and then chairman of the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering; and to be both the first African-American and the first woman to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Dr. Jackson was born in Washington D.C. Her parents strongly valued education and encouraged her in school. Her father spurred on her interest in science by helping her with projects for her science classes. At Roosevelt High School, Jackson attended accelerated programs in both math and science, and graduated in 1964 as valedictorian.

She began classes at MIT in 1964, one of fewer than twenty African American students and the only one studying theoretical physics. While a student, she did volunteer work at Boston City Hospital and tutored students at the Roxbury YMCA. She earned her bachelor's degree in 1968, writing her thesis on solid-state physics.

Dr. Jackson elected to stay at MIT for her doctoral work, in part to encourage more African American students to attend the institution. She worked on elementary particle theory for her Ph.D., which she completed in 1973, the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate degree from MIT. Her research was directed by James Young, the first black physics professor at MIT. Dr. Jackson was also the second African American woman in the United States to earn a doctorate in physics.

Dr. Jackson completed several years of postdoctoral research at various laboratories throughout the United States - and the world, such as Fermi in Illinois, before being hired by AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1976; where she worked for 15 years. She conducted research on the optical and electronic properties of layered materials, surface electrons of liquid helium films, strained-layer semiconductor superlattices, and most notably, the polaronic aspects of electrons in two-dimensional systems. She is considered a leading developer of Caller ID and Call Waiting on telephones.

After teaching at Rutgers University from 1991-1995, Dr. Jackson was appointed chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission by President Bill Clinton. In 1999, Dr. Jackson became President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she still serves today. In 2004, she was elected president of AAAS and in 2005 she served as chairman of the board for the Society. Dr. Shirley Jackson is married to a physicist and has one son.

Honors, awards, distinctions
- In 1982, she received a Candace Award for Technology from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
- In 1985, Governor Thomas Kean appointed her to the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology.
- In the early 1990s, Governor James Florio awarded her the Thomas Alva Edison Science Award for her contributions to physics and for the promotion of science.
- In 1998, she was inducted into National Women's Hall of Fame for "her significant contributions as a distinguished scientist and advocate for education, science, and public policy".
- In 2001, she received the Richtmyer Memorial Award- given annually by the American Association of Physics Teachers.
- In spring 2007, she was awarded the Vannevar Bush Award for "a lifetime of achievements in scientific research, education and senior statesman-like contributions to public policy".
- In 2008, she became the University Vice Chairman of the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, a non-for profit group based in Washington, D.C.
- In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Jackson to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a 20-member advisory group dedicated to public policy.
- In 2012, she was appointed an International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
- In 2014, she was named recipient of the National Medal of Science.
- Fellowships: the Martin Marietta Aircraft Company Scholarship and Fellowship; the Prince Hall Masons Scholarship; the National Science Foundation Traineeship; and a Ford Foundation Advanced Study Fellowship.
- Societies: the American Physical Society and American Philosophical Society.
- Achievements in science and education: the CIBA-GEIGY Exceptional Black Scientist Award.
- She has received many honorary doctorate degrees.

Interesting facts:
- Since her appointment to president of RPI, Dr. Jackson has helped raise over $1 billion in donations for philanthropic causes. Dr. Jackson is leading a strategic initiative called The Rensselaer Plan and much progress has been made towards achieving the Plan's goals. She has overseen a large capital improvement campaign, including the construction of an Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center and the East Campus Athletic Village. She enjoys the ongoing support of the RPI Board of Trustees.
- Since arriving at RPI, Dr. Jackson has been one of the highest-paid university presidents in the nation. In 2011, Dr. Jackson's salary was $1.75 million.
- In June 2010, it was announced that the Rensselaer Board of Trustees unanimously voted to extend Dr. Jackson a ten-year contract renewal, which she accepted.
- Shirley Ann Jackson's compensation ranked 1st among USA private university presidents in 2014.


Dr. Jackson's continuing aim has been to preserve and strengthen the U.S. national capacity for innovation by increasing support for basic research in science and engineering. This is done in part by attracting talent from abroad and by expanding the domestic talent pool by attracting women and members of under-represented groups into careers in science.

"I am interested in the electronic, optical, magnetic, and transport properties of novel semiconductor systems. Of special interest are the behavior of magnetic polarons in semimagnetic and dilute magnetic semiconductors, and the optical response properties of semiconductor quantum-wells and superlattices. My interests also include quantum dots, mesoscopic systems, and the role of antiferromagnetic fluctuations in correlated 2D electron systems." --Dr. Shirley Jackson.

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02.16.17. Meet Valdez Venita "Val" Demings (1957-present), police officer, politician. Val Demings currently serves as the member of the United States House of Representatives from Florida's 10th congressional district. She previously served as Chief of the Orlando Police Department, the first woman to hold the position. She was the Democratic nominee in both 2012 and 2016 to represent Florida's 10th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives- she won the 2016 election.

Congresswoman Val Demings represents Florida's 10th Congressional District.
Born in a two-room, wooden framed home in Jacksonville, Val Demings was the youngest of seven children. Her parents, Elouise, a maid, and James, a janitor, did all they could to support their seven children and instill in them the meaning of hard work.

Val took these lessons seriously. She attended segregated schools in the 1960s and graduating from high school in the 1970s. Her desire for a career in law enforcement came when she served in the "school patrol" at Dupont Junior High School. She got her first job at age 14, and became the first in her family to graduate from college. In 1979, With her parents proudly at her side, she received a B.S. in Criminology from Florida State University.

Val began her career in Jacksonville as a social worker, working with foster children. Despite seeing few women in the ranks of law enforcement in the early 1980’s, Val was inspired to move to Orlando to join the police force. She graduated from the police academy as class president, receiving the Board of Trustees’ Award for Overall Excellence, and quickly earned the reputation of a tenacious, no-nonsense cop.

It was that reputation that helped her work her way up the ranks while raising a family. During her 27-year career she served in virtually every department, including serving as Commander of the Special Operations, where she was responsible for some of Orlando’s highest profile tasks, including special events and dignitary protection.

In 2007, Val Demings made history when she was appointed to serve as Orlando’s first female Chief of Police.

As Orlando’s Chief of Police, Val was widely praised for her dynamic leadership and a significant drop in crime. Val shepherded the department through the financial crisis and despite budgetary constraints kept the same number of officers on the streets. Remarkably, the Orlando Police Department reduced violent crime by more than 40 percent while she was Chief.

Chief Demings founded innovative programs like Operation Positive Direction, a mentoring program that empowers at-risk students through tutoring, community service, and positive incentives. She also launched Operation Free Palms, a project focusing on rejuvenating Orlando's most crime-ridden housing complex, the Palms Apartments. Collaborating with city officials and faith leaders, this initiative included increasing access to childcare, building playgrounds, a GED program, and job skills training to improve the quality of life in Orlando’s most distressed community.

Val is eager to continue her record of public service as Congresswoman representing the people of the 10th District of Florida.

Val is married to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, and is a proud mother to 3 sons, and proud grandmother to 5.

Val is an active member of St. Mark A.M.E., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc, Orlando Chapter of the Links, Inc., NAACP Silver Life Member, Florida Bar Citizens Advisory Committee, Florida Police Chiefs, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, National Congress of Black Women, and numerous other affiliations.

Val enjoys spending her very limited free time riding her Harley- Davidson Road King Classic motorcycle. Val has completed the O.U.C. half marathon as well as the Walt Disney marathon.

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02.15.17. Meet Lisa Blunt Rochester (1962-present), politician. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester is from the state of Delaware, a member of the Democratic Party, and a member of the United States House of Representatives. She represents Delaware's at-large congressional district.

Rep. Blunt Rochester was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and her family moved to Wilmington, Delaware, in 1969. Her father, Ted Blunt, served on the Wilmington City Council, including being the council president.

Lisa began her professional career as a problem-solver and an advocate. A caseworker for then-Congressman Tom Carper, Lisa helped people during challenging times with their Social Security benefits, disability insurance claims, IRS disputes and housing needs. She served in the cabinets of two Delaware governors as the first female African-American Secretary of Labor and the first African-American Deputy Secretary of Health and Social Services and State Personnel Director.

As Secretary of Labor, Lisa managed 500 employees and an $87 million budget; she focused on connecting employers to resources and jobseekers – particularly those on welfare or leaving Delaware prisons. As State Personnel Director, Lisa was commissioned to investigate the Delaware State Police for racial and sexual discrimination. Working with local and national experts in policing and civil rights, the 2001 Blunt-Bradley Report served as a roadmap to improve the internal and external relations of the State Police.

She also served as the CEO of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League – an action-oriented, public policy research think-tank focused on the inclusion of people of color.

Lisa grew up in Wilmington, graduated from Padua Academy, and worked her first job at the McDonald’s on Market Street. She majored in International Relations as an undergraduate at Fairleigh Dickinson University and later earned a Master’s in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware. Lisa believes our national security requires a strong understanding of the rest of the world. She has helped women enter the workforce in the Middle East, provided vaccines to children in Africa, and co-authored a book while living in China with her late husband Charles. Her book, THRIVE: 34 Women, 19 Countries, One Goal, profiles women who reinvented themselves while living in a foreign country.

Her husband, Charles, died in 2014. He ruptured his achilles which caused blood clots to go to his heart and lungs.

Lisa is the proud mother of Alyssa, age 27, and Alex, age 30, both of whom graduated from Delaware’s public schools. Education and college affordability are important to her. Like many parents, Lisa is still paying off the loans she took to help her kids go to college and graduate.

Lisa once again made history in 2016 when she was elected to Congress. She was the first woman and the first person of color to represent The First State in such a role. She won the Democratic Party nomination on September 13, 2016 and won the general election in November of that year. When she was sworn into office on January 3, 2017, she became the first woman and the first African-American to represent Delaware in Congress. She has joined the Congressional Black Caucus.

February 10th was her birthday.


More information on Rep. Blunt Rochester: http://buff.ly/2kKvmdn
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02.14.17. Meet Patricia Bath (1942-present), Inventor, Doctor, Educator, Inventor, and Academic. Among many firsts, Dr. Patricia Bath is the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology and the first African-American female doctor to receive a medical patent. She invented the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment in 1986.

Patricia Era Bath was born in Harlem, New York to Rupert Bath, the first black motorman for the New York City subway system, and Gladys Bath, a housewife and domestic worker who used her salary to save money for her children's education. Bath was encouraged by her family to pursue academic interests. Her father, a former Merchant Marine and an occasional newspaper columnist, taught Bath about the wonders of travel and the value of exploring new cultures. Her mother piqued the young girl's interest in science by buying her a chemistry set.

As a result, Dr. Bath worked hard on her intellectual pursuits and, at the age of 16, became one of only a few students to attend a cancer research workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The program head, Dr. Robert Bernard, was so impressed with Bath's discoveries during the project that he incorporated her findings in a scientific paper he presented at a conference. The publicity surrounding her discoveries earned Bath the Mademoiselle magazine's Merit Award in 1960.

After graduating from high school in only two years, she headed to Hunter College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1964. She then attended Howard University to pursue a medical degree. Dr. Bath graduated with honors from Howard in 1968, and accepted an internship at Harlem Hospital shortly afterward. The following year, she also began pursuing a fellowship in ophthalmology at Columbia University. Through her studies there, she discovered that African Americans were twice as likely to suffer from blindness than other patients to which she attended, and eight times more likely to develop glaucoma. Her research led to her development of a community ophthalmology system, which increased the amount of eye care given to those who were unable to afford treatment.

In 1973, Dr. Bath became the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology. She moved to California the following year to work as an assistant professor of surgery at both Charles R. Drew University and the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1975, she became the first female faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute.

In 1976, Dr. Bath co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, which established that "eyesight is a basic human right"; and served as president. By 1983, Dr. Bath had helped create the Ophthalmology Residency Training program at UCLA-Drew, which she also chaired—becoming, in addition to her other firsts, the first woman in the nation to hold such a position.

In 1981, Dr. Bath began working on her most well-known invention: the Laserphaco Probe (1986). Harnessing laser technology, the device created a less painful and more precise treatment of cataracts. She received a patent for the device in 1988, becoming the first African-American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. (She also holds patents in Japan, Canada and Europe.) With her Laserphaco Probe, Bath was able to help restore the sight of individuals who had been blind for more than 30 years.

In 1993, Dr. Bath retired from her position at the UCLA Medical Center and became an honorary member of its medical staff. That same year, she was named a "Howard University Pioneer in Academic Medicine."

Among her many roles in the medical field, Dr. Bath is a strong advocate of telemedicine, which uses technology to provide medical services in remote areas.

More Awesome Facts:
- During her time at Howard, she was president of the Student National Medical Association and received fellowships from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health.
- She served her residency in ophthalmology at NYU from 1970 to 1973, the first African American to do so in her field.
- Hunter College placed her in its "hall of fame" in 1988.
- She served as a professor of Ophthalmology at Howard University's School of Medicine and as a professor of Telemedicine and Ophthalmology at St. Georges University.
- She was among the co-founders of the King-Drew Medical Center ophthalmology training program.
- She holds four patents in the USA. Three relate to the Laserphaco Probe, the other for a method she devised for using ultrasound technology to treat cataracts.
- She has lectured internationally and authored over 100 papers.

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02.13.17. Meet Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (1932-present), politician - CA Democratic Representative in Congress. Yvonne Brathwaite Burke is from Los Angeles, California. She was the first African-American woman to represent the West Coast in Congress. She served in the congress 93rd congress (1973–1975), 94th congress (1975–1977), and 95th congress (1977–1979). She was the Los Angeles County Supervisor representing the 2nd District (1992–2008). She has served as the Chair three times (1993–94, 1997–98, 2002–03).

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke was a rising star in California and national politics years before she won a seat in the U.S. House.
- In 1966, she became the first African–American woman elected to the California assembly.
- In 1972, at the Democratic National Convention, she served as vice chair of the platform committee, gaining national television exposure; and she became the first black woman from California (and one of only three black women ever) elected to the House.

Her meteoric career continued with a prime appointment to the Appropriations Committee and her election as the first woman chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
Burke’s most notable distinction in the eyes of much of the public occurred in 1973, when she became the first Congresswoman to give birth and be granted maternity leave while serving in Congress.

She was born Perle Yvonne Watson, the only child of a custodian at the MGM film studios, and a real estate agent in East LA. She rejected the name Perle, and preferred to be called by her middle name: Yvonne.
- In 1949, she started school at the UC Berkeley but then transferred to UCLA. In 1953, she earned a B.A. in political science.
- After UCLA, she applied and was accepted to USC School of Law - being among the first black women to be admitted to the USC School of Law,
- In 1956, she earned her J.D. and passed the CA state bar.

After graduating, she found that no law firms would hire an African–American woman and, consequently, entered into her own private practice, specializing in civil, probate, and real estate law. In addition to her private practice, she served as the state’s deputy corporation commissioner and as a hearing officer for the LA Police Commission.
- In 1965, she organized a legal defense team for Watts rioters and was named by Governor Edmond Brown to the McCone Commission, which investigated the conditions that led to the riot.
- In 1966, she won election to the California assembly. She eventually chaired the assembly’s committee on urban development and won re–election in 1968 and 1970.

Yvonne ultimately grew impatient with the pace of social legislation in the California assembly and, when court–mandated reapportionment created a new congressional district, decided to enter the race for the seat. The district encompassed much of southwest LA, was nearly 75 percent registered Democrats, and had a large African–American constituency. In the Democratic primary, she amassed 54 percent of the vote to defeat her opponents.

- In her first term during the 93rd Congress (1973–1975), she received assignments on two committees: Public Works and Interior and Insular Affairs.
- She gave up both of those panels in December 1974 to accept a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee, where she served for the duration of her House career. Her appointment to the panel occurred at a time when African Americans began to serve simultaneously on the most influential House committees: Appropriations (Burke and Louis Stokes of Ohio), Ways and Means (Charles Rangel of New York and Harold E. Ford of Tennessee), and Rules (Andrew Young of Georgia).
- In the 94th Congress (1975–1977), Burke was appointed chair of the Select Committee on the House Beauty Shop, an honorific position that rotated among the women Members.

Representative Burke recognized that the civil rights struggle had shifted to a phase in which less overt discrimination must be confronted.
- She fought the Nixon administration’s efforts to unravel some of the programs established under Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, particularly the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).
- She fought for equal opportunities for minority–owned businesses in the construction of the Trans–Alaskan Pipeline by adding two amendments to the bill that provided the framework for the nearly 800–mile–long project.

Representative Burke supported most major feminist issues and joined the Congressional Women’s Caucus when it was founded in 1977, serving as the group’s first treasurer.
- She was part of a successful effort to extend the time limit for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment by an additional three years.
- In 1977, she introduced the Displaced Homemakers Act, which authorized the creation of job training centers for women entering the labor market, particularly middle–aged, self–supporting women who were re–entering the job market after an absence of many years...
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02.12.17. Meet Betty Reid Soskin (1921-present), National Park Ranger and community activist. Betty is a Park Ranger with the National Park Service and assigned to the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. At age 95, she is the oldest National Park Ranger serving the United States. The National Park Service itself is only five years older than her.

Betty was born in Detroit to parents who were both natives of Louisiana. Her father came from a Creole background, and her mother from a Cajun background (she lived to be 101!). Her great-grandmother had been born into slavery in 1846 (she lived to be 102!). She spent her early childhood living in New Orleans, until a hurricane and flood destroyed her family's home and business in 1927, when her family then relocated to Oakland, California.

Her family’s relocation to California set her on a unique path. In California in the early 1900s, women of color generally had two avenues of employment: domestic servant or teacher; but Henry Keiser and his shipyard in Richmond gave her a third option. During World War II she worked as a file clerk for Boilermakers Union A-36, a Jim Crow all-black union auxiliary. Her main job was filing change of address cards for the workers who moved frequently.

After the shipyards, she went on to work in academia, as a songwriter during the Civil Rights Movement, as a community activist, and as a field representative for California Assemblywomen Dion Aroner and Loni Hancock, which led to her work designing and ultimately working at Rosie the Riveter park.

Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park was established in 2000, to provide a site where future generations could remember the contributions women made to the War effort.

According to Betty, urban parks like Rosie the Riveter help bring national parks to people who may not otherwise be able to get to remote places like Yosemite or Yellowstone. It is not lost on her that tax dollars pay for U.S. national parks, yet many of the country’s citizens cannot access them.

At the same time, more people live in urban areas today compared to a hundred years ago, so identifying and designating more of these spaces is vital.

She argues that urban parks are as important as our wild spaces, because “the urban spaces combined with nature tells the American story. Our parks are our American story.”

Betty currently conducts park tours and serves as an interpreter, explaining the Park's purpose, history, various sites, and museum collections to park visitors. She has been celebrated as: "a tireless voice for making sure the African-American wartime experience – both the positive steps toward integration and the presence of discrimination – has a prominent place in the Park's history".

She has been wildly celebrated over the years for her outstanding service:
- California Woman of the Year, California Legislature, 1995
- Builders of Communities and Dreams, National Women’s History Project, 2006
- Cited in "Wherever there's a fight – the history of the ACLU in California" - Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi, 2007
- Attended President Obama's Inauguration as a guest of Rep. George Miller, 2009
- Proclamation honoring her by Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin on behalf of Richmond City Council, 2009
- Received honorary doctorate at California College of the Arts at Spring Commencement of 2010
- Received the WAVE award as one of three "Women of Achievement" by Girl Source of San Francisco 2010
- The National WWII Museum Silver Service Medallion, at the American Spirit Awards gala, 2016


Other interesting facts:
- In June 1945, she and her then husband founded Reid's Records in Berkeley, California, a small black-owned business specializing in Gospel music. Reid's Records is still in business today.

- Betty divorced Mr. Reid in 1972 and married Mr. Soskin in 1978.

- After her former husband's health and finances declined, she took over management of the music store, which led to her becoming active in local area civic matters and a prominent community activist.

- On June 27, 2016 an intruder broke into her home in Richmond, California, and punched her several times in the face. She managed to get away and lock herself in her bathroom, where she proceeded to plug in her iron and wait for her attacker to return so she could brand him. Instead, he escaped with some of her prized possessions, including a commemorative coin from President Obama. She returned to work three weeks after the attack.


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02.11.17. Meet Mary (Winston) Jackson (1921-2005), mathematician and aerospace engineer. Mary Winston Jackson worked at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which later became NASA. She worked at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, for most of her career. She started as a computer at the segregated West Area Computing division. She took advanced engineering classes and in 1958 became NASA's first black female engineer.

Date of Birth: April 9, 1921
Hometown: Hampton, VA
Education: B.S., Mathematics and Physical Science, Hampton Institute, 1942
Hired by NACA: April 1951
Retired from NASA: 1985
Date of Death: February 11, 2005

Mary Jackson grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she graduated from the all-black George P. Phenix Training School with highest honors.

She earned a dual bachelor's degrees in mathematics and physical science from Hampton Institute in 1942, where she was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Her path to an engineering career at the NASA Langley Research Center was far from direct...
- After college she accepted a job as a math teacher at a black school in Calvert County, Maryland.
- Hampton, VA had become one of the nerve centers of the World War II home front effort, and after a year of teaching, Mary returned home, finding a position as the receptionist at the King Street USO Club, which served the city’s black population.

It would take three more career changes—a post as a bookkeeper in Hampton Institute’s Health Department, a stint at home following the birth of her son, Levi, and a job as an Army secretary at Fort Monroe—before Mary landed at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory’s segregated West Area Computing section in 1951, reporting to the group’s supervisor Dorothy Vaughan.

After two years in the computing pool, Mary Jackson received an offer to work for engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki in the 4-foot by 4-foot Supersonic Pressure Tunnel, a 60,000 horsepower wind tunnel capable of blasting models with winds approaching twice the speed of sound. Czarnecki offered Mary hands-on experience conducting experiments in the facility, and eventually suggested that she enter a training program that would allow her to earn a promotion from mathematician to engineer. Trainees had to take graduate level math and physics in after-work courses managed by the University of Virginia. Because the classes were held at then-segregated Hampton High School, however, Mary needed special permission from the City of Hampton to join her white peers in the classroom. Never one to flinch in the face of a challenge, Mary completed the courses, earned the promotion, and in 1958 became NASA’s first black female engineer. That same year, she co-authored her first report, Effects of Nose Angle and Mach Number on Transition on Cones at Supersonic Speeds.

Mary Jackson began her engineering career in an era in which female engineers of any background were a rarity; in the 1950s, she very well may have been the only black female aeronautical engineer in the field. For nearly two decades she enjoyed a productive engineering career, authoring or co-authoring a dozen or so research reports, most focused on the behavior of the boundary layer of air around airplanes. As the years progressed, the promotions slowed, and she became frustrated at her inability to break into management-level grades. In 1979, seeing that the glass ceiling was the rule rather than the exception for the center’s female professionals, she made a final, dramatic career change, leaving engineering and taking a demotion to fill the open position of Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager. There, she worked hard to impact the hiring and promotion of the next generation of all of NASA’s female mathematicians, engineers and scientists. Mary retired from Langley in 1985. She worked for NASA for 34 years.

Interesting facts:
- Mary Jackson was awarded the Apollo Group Achievement Award and named Langley’s Volunteer of the Year in 1976.
- She served as the chair of one of the center’s annual United Way campaigns.
- She was a Girl Scout troop leader for more than three decades.
- She was a member of the National Technical Association (the oldest African American technical organization in the United States).
- She and her husband had an open-door policy for young Langley recruits trying to gain their footing in a new town and a new career.
- She was known as a “gentlelady, wife and mother, humanitarian and scientist.”

For Mary Jackson, science and service went hand in hand.

Today, February 11th, is the anniversary of her death. She passed away on this day in 2005, at the age of 83.

Janelle Monáe plays Mary Jackson in the movie "Hidden Figures."

More information via NASA: http://buff.ly/2lz5cee
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More information via Milwaukee Community Journal: http://buff.ly/2lzbLgJ
Hidden Figures trailer: http://buff.ly/2lyNM1c
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02.10.17. Meet Dorothy Johnson Vaughan (1910–2008), mathematician. Dorothy Vaughan worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and NASA, at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. In 1949, she became acting supervisor of the West Area Computers. She was the first African-American woman to supervise a staff at the center.

Date of Birth: September 20, 1910
Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Education: B.A., Mathematics, Wilberforce University, 1929
Hired by NACA (NASA's predecessor): December 1943
Retired from NASA: 1971
Date of Death: November 10, 2008

In the early 1960s, Dorothy Vaughan prepared for the introduction of machine computers by teaching herself and her staff the programming language of FORTRAN; she later headed the programming section of the Analysis and Computation Division (ACD) at Langley. Her career lasted for the next 28 years.

Dorothy Vaughan, led the segregated group of “colored computers,” by assigning black women to assist with calculations in various departments. As electronic computers became more essential Vaughan recognized their importance and became an expert programmer. She surreptitiously took a book from whites-only section of a public library — a guide to the computing language FORTRAN — in order to teach herself the prowess with the language.

She worked in the Langley Research Center’s Analysis and Computation Division, and also participated in Scout Project (Solid Controlled Orbital Utility Test system) tests at Wallops Flight Facility.

Dorothy Vaughan retired from NASA in 1971, and died November 10, 2008.

Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy Vaughan in the movie "Hidden Figures."

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