This true story is nothing short of amazing.
Throughout her life, Raye, born January 21, 1935, was told that as both an African-American and a female, her dream of being an engineer was unrealistic. But Raye, a gifted mathematician, was determined to follow that path ever since she toured a German submarine at age seven.
Since Raye was not admitted into classes intended for engineers, she majored in business in college, and became a typist for the Navy at a facility where submarines were designed. She took computer programming at night school while continuing to work and learn at her job. Her work station was right next to a 1950s UNIVAC I computer, and she watched the engineers operate it. One day when the whole staff was out with the flu, Raye did all the engineers’ work on the UNIVAC, much to the astonishment of her boss, who promoted her to the position of computer systems analyst. She was still treated poorly however, sometimes mistaken for a secretary or maid.
When, in 1971, President Nixon ordered a new submarine that would be “grand” to be built in only two months (a process that usually took up to two years), Raye decided to try designing it herself on a computer. She finished it in just over eighteen hours. (Her white male superiors took credit for the work, and she was not even invited when the ship finally launched in 1978.)
How did she cope? In the ABAB rhyme scheme that characterizes the text, the author notes:
“All her HUMOR and WIT
Served her well through the years,
As she battled the hard times
With LAUGHS and not tears.”
Eventually she gained the recognition she deserved, and even finally got her much coveted degree in engineering, as well as other accolades. In 1984, she accepted the role of the U.S. Navy’s first female program manager of ships, directing teams of up to 250 people. The author also reports in her Afterword that when Raye retired in 1990, she received what she considered her most cherished recognition – a flag flew over the nation’s Capitol building in her honor.
Raye died in 2018 at the age of 83. Throughout her life she was often quoted as saying:
“Aim for the stars. At the very least, you’ll land on the moon.”
The author was able to interview Raye before her death, and Raye penned a further message for readers of this book:
“Always remember that just because someone says ‘you can’t,’ that doesn’t have to stop you. You might have to go in a different direction, and it might take you a little longer, but you CAN achieve your dreams!”
In the end matter, more excerpts from the author’s interview are included, as well as a timeline, guide to further resources, and actual photographs of Raye Montague.
Daniel Rieley created cartoon-like illustrations that manage to be simple and expressive all at once.
Evaluation: I was wowed by the facts in this story for readers aged 4 and up; readers will no doubt be awe-struck as I was. Perhaps some children will be inspired to keep persisting in realizing their own dreams.
Published by The Innovation Press, 2018