While browsing through our catalog, you may have noticed that we have some non-standard names for the styles of our dresses and tops. Well, the names we’ve chosen for each of these styles come from one of the many influential women who have left their mark on the scientific or educational world. We want to take some time to talk about each of these ladies and how they’ve moved us and we’re going to begin with the inspiration behind the Katherine style of dresses, Katherine Johnson.
Born as Creola Katherine Coleman in 1918, Johnson was the youngest of four children and from a very early age showed a tremendous aptitude for mathematics. At the time, the county she lived and grew up in did not teach African-American students past the eighth grade so she was instead enrolled in a high school in Institute, West Virginia at the age of 10. After graduating, she attended West Virginia State University, a historically black college. It was there she met chemist, teacher and mentor Angie Turner King. She was also taught by William Schieffelin Claytor, the third African-American to ever get a Ph.D. in mathematics, who had to create new courses just to keep up with Johnson’s ravenous hunger for knowledge.
She graduated with honors at the age of 18 in 1937 and started her career as a teacher of mathematics in Virginia until she began to attend graduate school. She was the first African-American woman to attend graduate school at West Virginia University after the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of integration of higher learning institutes. Some time thereafter she settled on the path to become a research mathematician and a chance meeting at a family gathering saw her the opportunity to apply to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, who were not discriminatory to their applicants.
Though there were still inherent barriers to women in the field of computing and engineering, especially African-Americans, Johnson worked and pushed forward in such a way that her expertise could not be ignored. She asserted herself, asking to be included in editorial meetings, insisting all the while that she had worked hard enough to have earned her rightful place there. Her talent for calculation saw her plan the trajectory of Alan Shepard’s ascent into space, the first man to do so, as well as plan for contingencies should these astral missions go awry. By the time John Glenn was set to orbit Earth, NASA had moved to electronic computing, but he refused to fly until Katherine Johnson came in and verified the math herself. She worked on several more missions and was directly responsible for the safe return of the Apollo 13 mission team to Earth, and she eventually retired from the field in 1986. In her years after, she spent her time reaching out and talking to young women, encouraging them to seek their place in STEM fields.
We promise, this is only scratching the surface of the marvelous woman she was and the achievements she made. Her passing in 2020 was keenly felt by all, but there’s no question she made the most of it all, leading a full and meaningful life, making not only a place for herself but for anyone who would follow in her footsteps and with enough work, proudly walk beyond.
Smart is more than just a descriptor, it’s also a look! Find the right look for you in our broad and expansive catalogue: science, technology, engineering, art, math, cardigans, leggings with pockets, jewelry, socks & scarves, bags & laptop cases, puzzles & plush toys, adult gift boxes, mugs, Ms. Frizzle clothing, stem clothing, stem dresses, dress with pockets.