Mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson were memorably immortalized onscreen by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe (respectively) in the award-winning 2016 film Hidden Figures. Now, NASA is giving the trio a permanent place of honor, having renamed the street of its headquarters, the 300 block of E Street in Washington, D.C., “Hidden Figures Way.”
The Guardian reports that on Wednesday, family members of the trio were joined by Hidden Figures author Margot Lee Shetterly and Ted Cruz, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on aviation and space, to debut new street signs honoring the remarkable women. The outlet reports that another of NASA’s little-known “human computers,” engineer Christine Darden, was also on hand for the unveiling. Darden had a 40-year-career at the agency and also worked on the Apollo mission, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
In what may be a surprising twist for many, the Guardian reports it was actually Cruz who pushed for the name change, after seeing the film with the women in his family. Notably, Cruz’s own mother was a mathematician at the Smithsonian during the same era as Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson.
“I think it’s important to recognize everybody’s contributions. Women and men across every racial and ethnic line have contributed to this incredible journey we’re on and I think it is also vitally important that we send the message to little girls and little boys that there is no limit to what you can accomplish,” Cruz said.
“The extraordinary achievements of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Dr. Christine Darden, who’s with us today, prior to the book and the movie had not been told,” Cruz added. “Very few people knew those stories, and yet those are stories that can and do inspire and we should be telling stories like that a lot more often.”