Review Detail

Opportunities for Women
Overall rating 
 
4.3
Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)  
 
4.0
Learning Value 
 
5.0
This narrative nonfiction title follows the lives of several women who worked at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in Langley, Virginia. NACA later became NASA, so some of the women who were instrumental in working with calculations for airplanes during World War II also went on to work with the engineers who were responsible for putting a man on the moon. Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden had a variety of backgrounds but shared several important characteristics-- they were very bright, very motivated to make better lives for themselves and their families, and very unusual for their time. As African American women, their opportunities were limited, and working with the government gave them more opportunities than many women had. There were certainly challenges, both in their personal lives and with the general climate for women in the work force at the time, but they all persevered and contributed greatly to the US air and space programs.
Good Points
I haven't seen the movie that is based on this book, but the trailers look much more emotional than this text. While the hardships that the women faced aren't glossed over, they are presented in a more matter of fact way. I found this to be effective, and the juxtaposition of individual experiences with the general sociopolitical climate of the time made history come alive for me.

The most amazing part was how long ago women like Vaughan were able to break through barriers to excel in mathematical and scientific fields! I knew that women had made some strides in employment in the 1930s, and that there were lots of opportunities during the war, but many women were forced out of "men's positions" after the war was over. The intrepid women in this book managed to hang on to their positions. The other noteworthy part was how they managed to raise children while working long hours during a time when child care was not as readily available.

Not only is Hidden Figures an interesting book to read for pleasure, but it is also a very useful title when researching women's history or African American history. Hidden Figures joins Blumenthal's Let Me Play, Macy's Wheels of Change and Farrell's Pure Grit as a must read for girls who want to investigate women who fought for opportunities even when they came with a high price.
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