Monday, September 5, 2016

Almost Astronauts

Almost Astronauts

Juvenile nonfiction
"Most men who had fought in the war wanted to leave that grim
scene behind and return to a nice home, a sweet wife, a growing
family...Many women agreed that their place was the home. But others
had tasted independence, had felt the satisfaction of earning their
own money, supporting their families, excelling at jobs outside of the
home. They didn't want to give all that up and did not like this
change in the national mood. They still had hopes and dreams beyond
serving up hot casseroles for their men returning home from work..."
Tanya Lee Stone's Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared To Dream
gives the reader the story of a gutsy group of women whose hopes and
dreams were sky high.
In 1957 Russia's launch of Sputnik gave the United States a bad
case of outer space envy. My generation of schoolkids was found to be
woefully science and math deficient. NASA came into being. President
Kennedy put kicking Soviet butt in this arena at the top of his
national to do list. The all male Mercury 7 astronauts were recruited
and trained.
There was a doctor, Randolph Lovelace, who believed that women
were equally capable of space exploration despite popular prejudices.
In his mind they could even save NASA money. He had tested the
Mercury 7 guys. He wanted to evaluate similarly qualified female
subjects. In 1959 he met up with Jerrie Cob who had set records and
won awards as an aviator. She and twelve other aviatrices were put
through grueling physical and psychological tests which they passed
with flying colors, often doing better than the men.
Well you can probably guess what happened. An American public
addicted to Love Lucy and Father Knows Best remained unconvinced that
women belonged in space. NASA showed no interest. John Glenn claimed
that men and women astronauts working together would not be able to
keep their minds on work. Vice President Johnson wrote "Let's stop
this now!" on a letter about woman astronauts. Cartoonists had a
field day.
It would take two decades before woman asonauts finally got the
chance to show that they had the right stuff.
Period photos and cartoons help to vividly establish time and
place. This window on a little known chapter of herstory really
needed to be opened. Feminists, including those well beyond its
target demographics, will find it well worth reading.
On a personal note, Orono Community Garden was helped immensely by a
group of 40 UMaine freshpeople who helped us with the task of turning
some of our beds over to cover crop for the winter. I got my own
group to supervise. It was so much fun talking to them.
A great big shout out goes out to the UMaine class of 2020!
jules hathaway

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