Mary Jackson became NASA’s first African American female engineer in 1958.

She started out as a math teacher after graduating with a dual degree in mathematics and physical science. She switched careers frequently before attaining a position at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Jackson worked at the segregated West Area Computing section for two years and was then offered a position to work as an assistant for an aerospace engineer at NASA. After gaining technical experience, she took math and physics courses after her job to become an aerospace engineer.

Over the span of Jackson’s twenty-year career as an aerospace engineer, she co-authored twelve research reports. In 1979, she became Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager and focused on hiring more female NASA employees. Even after she retired in 1985, Jackson worked hard to pave the way for future scientists.