During an era when segregation was still prevalent throughout the US, and women were largely excluded from STEM careers, Mary Jackson was a trailblazer.
Jackson, who died in 2005, would have turned 100 in April. She spent 34 years at NASA as an engineer and a project manager, beginning in 1951. She was NASA’s first Black female engineer.
On Friday, the NASA headquarters in Washington, DC, was named after the trailblazing scientist.
In 2019, she was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal posthumously.
“It is most fitting that Ms. Jackson’s legacy includes her name on this building in the heart of the nation’s capital,” said Lucinda Babers, Washington DC deputy mayor for operations and infrastructure. “One of the most diverse cities in the nation and home to strong leadership by African-American women in all walks of life. African American girls now know they can reach the moon and stars due to Ms. Jackson.”
Jackson specialized in studying the air around airplanes, and co-authored more than a dozen reports.
Becoming frustrated with the glass ceiling over her, she took a demotion in 1979 to leave engineering and work as Langley’s federal women’s program manager. There, she was tasked with hiring the next generation of scientists and engineers at NASA.