Dorothy Vaughn

Dorothy Vaughn

    Hidden Figures

Character Analysis

(Avoiding Spoilers)

Living... in Virginia in the early 1960’s when Jim Crow laws ruled the South.

Profession... employee at NASA’s Langley Research Center. She informally leads a group of 20 black women in the West Computing Group. They manually calculate the mathematics necessary to enable launch and landing of rockets. They’re proud to be doing their part to prepare astronaut John Glenn for his mission to become the first American to orbit Earth. Dorothy does the work of a supervisor, but she doesn’t have a title or salary to show for it.

Interests... her family. Dorothy wants the best for her two boys, and she tries to mentor them about how to handle the discrimination they all face. She tells them that “separate and equal aren’t the same thing… If you act right, you are right.”

Relationship status... happily married. She is determined to help her friend Katherine to find someone too—even though Katherine hasn’t asked for any help in that department. 

Challenge... keeping her job. There are rumors that her department will be laid off with the upcoming IBM 7090 data processing system that has the capability of solving over twenty-four thousand multiplications per second. Determined to stay relevant, Dorothy seeks out a book from the library on the programming language FORTRAN that powers the IBM computer. After studying it herself, she plans on getting the women she supervises to get with the times and learn about the latest technology.

Personality... determined, tenacious, and adaptable. Dorothy is the unspoken leader with her two best friends. She tries to further herself when all the odds are stacked against her. In spite of the cruel treatment she endures, she is committed to improve her life and teaches everyone she cares about to do the same.


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