Woo! This film looks fantastic: Hidden Figures is based on the untold true story of The Black Female Mathematicians Who Sent Astronauts to Space (link to article from 2015).
The article noted that this was a historic moment in time:
Considering society’s longheld prejudices about women and math, it may surprise some that NASA (then NACA, or the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics) would allow these “skirts” to work there in the first place. But the same man shortage that handed Rosie her rivets when the U.S. entered WWII in 1941 handed the human computers their slide rules.
These mathematically talented women, who were recruited to work as “human computers” at the Langley Memorial Research Laboratory in the ‘40s and ‘50s, made history.
They were so named because before machines came along, they crunched the numbers necessary for figuring out everything from wind tunnel resistance to rocket trajectories to safe reentry angles. In fact, all of Langley’s hundreds of “human computers,” whether black or white, were women. It was an era when, as (Katherine) Johnson put it, “the computer wore a skirt.”