Blame It On The ‘X’



Mary Jackson; one of the first black women to work at Nasa.

For every women engineer out there, you’d really want to read this.


Being a fetus with a double X chromosome brings up lots of worries or even distresses. You’re thought to be fragile, delicate and always a ‘ damsel in distress.’ Although you’re the pure and they’re the hybrids, they underestimate your power. In their minds, you’re up to no good when it comes to engineering, science, medical professions or even when it comes to driving! These hoaxes about women didn’t immerge nowadays; they’re the result of our ancestors who are thought to never get anything wrong. No matter how many heroines through history who strived to proof the opposite, some people seem to stick to their own opinion. This issue will go on; as there will always be those weak people who oppose us, and there will always be us; fearless and never losing hope.

However, the legend I’ll be talking about will spark a glimpse of hope in each women’s dark bumpy road. She went through the worst, but never learnt to give up. Mary Jackson; maybe she was never known before the movie “Hidden Figures” came out earlier this year.  But now Mary Jackson, the first black double X chromosome to get through Nasa’s gates, is hidden no more. In other words, Mrs. Jackson was the first female African American mathematician and aerospace engineer.

Born in 1921, Mary Winston-Jackson came of age during segregation in the United States. She attended Hampton’s all-black schools and graduated with high honors from George P. Phenix Training School in 1937. She was persistent and was gifted with amazing talent in mathematics. At a young age, she knew which profession she wants. She was reaching for the stars indeed. Five years later, she earned dual bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physical science from Hampton Institute. Being both female and black, Mary faced two kinds of discrimination which means it was impossible for her to pursue her dreams. But our heroin strived and worked so hard for equality.  She was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first sorority founded by and for African-American women .of course; it was always harassed by racist communities. Mary seemed to put this all aside and went on for those stars.  For a few years after college, Mary Winston-Jackson worked a series of jobs from being a teacher to bookkeeper and receptionist. Then in 1951, she found employment at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, the predecessor agency to NASA) in Langley, Virginia. 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 working on her project.

In 1960, Mary Jackson and her colleagues Katherine G. Johnson and Dorothy Johnson Vaughan calculated flight trajectories for project Mercury and the Apollo program. That’s why they were the legends of their time and all times! Project Mercury was the NASA program that put the first American astronauts in space. Astronauts made a total of six spaceflights during Project Mercury. Two of those flights reached space and came right back down. These are called suborbital flights; the other four went into orbits and circled Earth.

Let me end this article with the most famous quote she said: “Every time we get a chance to get ahead they move the finish line. Every time! “Dear whoever is reading this right now, don’t let them surpass you. Keep on fighting and cling to the small bits of hope. It’s not impossible that you could be the next Mary Jackson.


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