Hidden Figures

by

Margot Lee Shetterly

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Hidden Figures can help.
Mary Jackson works as a teacher and a USO secretary before taking a job as a computer at the NACA. She is extremely bright, and she finds herself frustrated when the intelligence that landed her a job at Langley doesn’t shield her from discrimination at the hands of her white colleagues. She is vocal about her frustrations, and her willingness to speak out helps her move up the ladder at work. Engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki gives her a job working outside of the computer pool, in aerodynamics. He encourages her to pursue greater opportunities at Langley, something she can only do after petitioning the city to allow her, as a woman, to take segregated engineering classes. Her persistence pays off, and she makes history, becoming the Langley Research Center’s first black female engineer. After decades of performing research at a senior level at the Langley Research Center, she takes a demotion to work in Human Resources, where she works alongside Gloria Champine to ensure that black women (and women in general) will have a fair opportunity to pursue careers as engineers. She is dedicated to her community and to the concept of the double V, which drives her to host open houses at the NACA and to do everything she can to draw young black students into its gates. Her enthusiasm and optimistic spirit sustain her and help her build a long and fruitful career marked by her dedication to gender equality in the sciences, something she views as a means to bridge the differences between races. She is one of the four women at the center of Hidden Figures, and was once an employee of Margot Shetterly’s father.

Mary Jackson Quotes in Hidden Figures

The Hidden Figures quotes below are all either spoken by Mary Jackson or refer to Mary Jackson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the William Morrow Paperbacks edition of Hidden Figures published in 2016.
Chapter 11 Quotes

Compared to the white girls, she came to the lab with as much education, if not more. She dressed each day as if she were on her way to a meeting with the president. She trained the girls in her Girl Scout troop to believe that they could be anything, and she went to lengths to prevent negative stereotypes of their race from shaping their internal views of themselves and other Negroes. It was difficult enough to rise above the silent reminders of Colored signs on the bathroom doors and cafeteria tables. But to be confronted with the prejudice so blatantly, there in that temple to intellectual excellence and rational thought, by something so mundane, so ridiculous, so universal as having to go to the bathroom . . . In the moment when the white women laughed at her, Mary had been demoted from professional mathematician to a second-class human being.

Related Characters: Mary Jackson
Related Symbols: “COLORED” Signs
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

Being part of a Black First was a powerful symbol, she knew just as well as anyone, and she embraced her son's achievement with delight. But she also knew that the best thing about breaking a barrier was that it would never have to be broken again.

Related Characters: Mary Jackson, Levi Jackson, Jr.
Related Symbols: The Double V
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Hidden Figures LitChart as a printable PDF.
Hidden Figures PDF

Mary Jackson Character Timeline in Hidden Figures

The timeline below shows where the character Mary Jackson appears in Hidden Figures. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 10: Home by the Sea
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
In April 1951, Mary Winston Jackson joins West Computing. She’d grown up in downtown Hampton, upon the site of... (full context)
Community  Theme Icon
Mary studies to become a teacher then takes a job as a secretary and bookkeeper at... (full context)
Community  Theme Icon
Mary organized a girl scout troop and served her community, helping students with their homework, sewing... (full context)
Community  Theme Icon
After joining the Civil Service, Mary worked as a clerk typist then accepted an offer to work as a computer for... (full context)
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
...flight extended. The military was trying to develop fighter planes capable of supersonic flight. When Mary started working at the NACA in April of 1951, the Cold War had begun and... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
...a role in both elements. More and more women came to work for “Mrs. Vaughan.” Mary Jackson was one of the young women swept up in the growing wave of black... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Area Rule
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Two years after Mary Jackson joins West Computing, Dorothy Vaughan sends Mary to the East Side to staff her... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
Mary Jackson, working on the Four-by-Four-Foot Supersonic Pressure Tunnel, is given an assignment by the chief... (full context)
Chapter 14: Angle of Attack
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Luck, Persistent Action, and Hard Work  Theme Icon
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
Kaz Czarnecki puts Mary Jackson at the controls in the wind tunnel, showing her how to fire up the... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
Though she is working in the service of her country, Mary has to beg to be allowed to do so, which is its own special kind... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
Thomas Byrdsong, another black engineer, regularly frequents Mary Jackson's home, where they discuss the daily indignities visited upon them. Black engineers face worse... (full context)
Chapter 18: With All Deliberate Speed
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Luck, Persistent Action, and Hard Work  Theme Icon
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
Katherine, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan push their children to excel in school and concentrate on getting... (full context)
Chapter 19: Model Behavior
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Luck, Persistent Action, and Hard Work  Theme Icon
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
Mary Jackson helps her son, Levi, build a car to race in the 1960 soap box... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Luck, Persistent Action, and Hard Work  Theme Icon
Levi is one of fifty thousand boys to compete in races around the country. Mary is one of the few women who helped build her son’s car. Mary, like other... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Luck, Persistent Action, and Hard Work  Theme Icon
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
...they might win. It takes a lot for a black child to believe he can. Mary is also aware that her daughter would have been rejected from the race outright because... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Luck, Persistent Action, and Hard Work  Theme Icon
Mary works with the National Technical Association, the professional organization for black engineers and scientists. She... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
Mary also cultivates friendships with the white women she works with. She collaborates with Emma Jean... (full context)
Community  Theme Icon
Mary serves as the leader of one of the largest girl scout troops in the area.... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Luck, Persistent Action, and Hard Work  Theme Icon
Mary gives everything she has outside of work to community service. She is able to do... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Mary and her son win the soapbox derby race. Levi tells the Norfolk Journal and Guide... (full context)
Chapter 22: America is for Everybody
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Luck, Persistent Action, and Hard Work  Theme Icon
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
Langley looks to hire more talented African-Americans. Mary Jackson and the others help make sure new black employees feel welcome. In 1967, Christine... (full context)
Epilogue
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Luck, Persistent Action, and Hard Work  Theme Icon
Scientific Progress vs. Social and Political Progress Theme Icon
Mary Jackson lives through the 1960s and 70s, as the promise of the space race era... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Luck, Persistent Action, and Hard Work  Theme Icon
Mary works with Gloria Champine to fight for the advancement and equality of women at NASA.... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Community  Theme Icon
Luck, Persistent Action, and Hard Work  Theme Icon
After Mary dies, Gloria tracks the careers of women at NASA, making sure they advance according to... (full context)