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06 March 2009 @ 04:39 pm
almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, right?  

ALMOST ASTRONAUTS: 13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM by Tanya Lee Stone (Candlewick, 2009)is a book that will raise your dander, I think. I know I certainly became enraged when I read about the women who endured all sorts of testing to prove that women could be astronauts just as the Mercury 7 guys were being paraded as having the "right stuff." Jerrie Cobb, Jane Hart, Jean Hixson and others completed and passed the tests in may cases surpassing their male counterparts' results. Despite their appearance before a Congressional hearing and letters written on their behalf, the women were basically told that it was not their time. Makes the feminist in me want to do something. So, what I did was tell my husband (he did not know any of this either) and the 16 year old resident of the back bedroom. And I plan to tell anyone else who will listen about this incredible work of nonfiction by Stone. Seamlessly weaving the stories of Cobb and the other women into the tapestry of the era (the 60s and 70s), using popular culture to help explain the challenges these women faced, and pulling readers into the story of the Mercury 13: this book is certain to be an important addition to school and public library collections. It is also a book to be read and savored, I think.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: enragedenraged
thehappynappybookseller.blogspot.com on March 6th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)
I don't read much non-fiction but I am really looking forward to reading Almost Astronauts.
sdnsdn on March 7th, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
from what i understand (and believe me, i've done a lot of research about the early space program over the past few years), the reason there were no female astronauts at that time is because there were no female military test pilots -- that was the baseline for the mercury astronauts and most of the rest of the first groups. in other words, one has to go back a few steps to the root cause. (although i do agree that they were treated abominably.)
professornanaprofessornana on March 7th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)
true. although NASA did bend some of the other requirements (college degreed) for applicants.

bookmarch on March 7th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
rules and causes
I edited tanya's books, so I am well aware of the issue Sharyn raises. In fact the whole jet pilot rule issue is a theme in the book, both in how it played out at the time, and in the end of the book where Tanya highlights one of the few female jet aces flying today, in part to encourage more young women to become pilots. Sharyn is right that that was the specific rule cited to keep the women on the ground, but a rule is not a cause. The rule could easily have been changed, so the question is why it was not. To make an obvious analogy, the poll tax is not the reason why so few blacks voted in the South. The reason was the attitude of the dominant whites, the tax was a mechanism of control. Tanya properly deals with the attitudes and beliefs that kept that rule on the books.
sdnsdn on March 7th, 2009 09:26 pm (UTC)
Re: rules and causes
The rule could easily have been changed, so the question is why it was not.

and that is why i said "one has to go back a few steps to the root cause."

thank you, and good night. :^)
(Anonymous) on March 22nd, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
Re: rules and causes
Bookmarch, your answer is provocative, but do you honestly believe the requirement that a pilot be experienced with high speed test flying was instituted by NASA as a "mechanism of control" that parallels the use of the poll tax? And what about the requirement of an engineering background? Do these not seem like skills that would be useful in designing and flying spacecraft?
bookmarch on March 22nd, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
Re: rules and causes
I don't think the requirement was created in order to exclude women, however I do believe it was used that way. It was a reasonable idea, but once you had candidates who seemed qualified -- as the Lovelace testing indicated -- but were not permitted to be jet pilots -- and thus there was no way of knowing whether they would have been good at it -- the reasonable step would have been to waive the requirement and further test the women. At that point the requirement shifted from a valid measure to a tool of prejudice.
(Anonymous) on March 22nd, 2010 07:44 pm (UTC)
Re: rules and causes
The premise in your comment is that the Lovelace testing indicated that the women were qualified for astronaut training. The Lovelace/Mercury medical tests may have ruled out some candidates (men and women) by establishing them as not medically or psychologically fit, but if passing the exams was necessary, it was never sufficient. There’s no equivalency between the exams and years of experience as a jet test pilot. And then you still have the requirement that the candidate have an engineering background, which is perhaps even less connected to the Lovelace tests, if possible. You say it was prejudice not to test the women further, but experience and an engineering background are things you look for on an application, not things you find on a test.

We may have to agree to disagree.