In recognition of Black History Month, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) today introduced H.R. 1396, the “Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act.” This bill awards the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’s highest civilian honor, to Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, Christine Darden, and all the women computers, mathematicians, and engineers at NASA, and its precursor organization the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Their stories, portrayed in the Hidden Figures book and film, represent the stories of hundreds of women working at NASA and NACA from the 1930s to the 1970s.
During this period, women submitted their work anonymously, were paid less than their male peers, and had few opportunities for career advancement. In addition, women of color were initially subjected to the indignity of segregated dining and bathroom facilities.
Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced a Senate companion of the legislation today.
“Katherine Johnson, Dr. Christine Darden, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and all the women of NASA during this time were pioneers,” Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). “In spite of the challenges these women faced, they chose to apply their considerable talents to help land the first man on the moon. The success of the NASA space program is due in large part to their brilliance, hard work, and perseverance in the face of adversity.”
“I am pleased to be joined by Ranking Member Lucas and our colleagues in the Senate in introducing the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act. I commend Senator Coons for his leadership in championing this bill,” said Chairwoman Johnson.
“Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Dr. Christine Darden exemplify the incredible drive and dedication required for NASA’s unprecedented achievements during the space race,” said Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK). “Their contributions to computing, engineering, programming, and aeronautics are all the more impressive given the barriers to success they faced. For too long, their work went unrecognized. It’s a privilege to sponsor this bill to award them, and the many other women who contributed to the space race, the Congressional Gold Medal. Their lives and careers will continue to inspire Americans for years to come.”
“I am proud to introduce this bill with my colleagues to honor Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Dr. Christine Darden and all women who contributed to NASA during the Space Race with Congressional Gold Medals,” said Senator Coons. “Women played an important role at NASA during the Space Race, but for many years their accomplishments remained hidden. This bill will help recognize these extraordinary women and bring their accomplishments into the light so they can serve as an inspiration to younger generations of women in science, particularly those of color.”