On Monday, July 23, Dr. Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, died of pancreatic cancer. A short biography, written by fellow Write Sister, Kathy Deady, can be found in Women of the Golden State: 25 California Women You Should Know.
One of the reasons we write these biographies is to recognize women who are often overlooked by historians, but Dr. Sally Ride is a woman they won’t easily overlook. She was born late enough in the 20th century to have lived in a time when American women were just coming into their own. She saw the women’s movement of the ‘70’s, the enactment of Title IX, co-ed colleges, and the rise and fall of the equal rights amendment. She may not have noticed or cared when the Russians sent Valentina Tereshkova into space in 1963, but she was probably very aware of Svetlana Savitskaya – the second woman to travel into space – in 1982. Sally had been training for just such an opportunity since 1978, and it may have been Savitskaya’s journey that prompted the US to finally put a woman on the shuttle. In 1983, Sally got the opportunity she had been training for.
But Sally was more than the first American woman in space. She was a daughter and a sister, a tennis player, an astrophysicist, a professor, a children’s book author, and a business owner. She helped develop the robotic arm of the space shuttle and served on the board that investigated both the Challenger and Columbia disasters. She worked for arms controls and founded Nasa’s Office of Exploration. Her achievements go on and on.
She was a woman, in a long list of women, who achieved, despite their gender and regardless of what century they lived in. They aspired to be more than society and social mores were willing to allow, they crossed the lines put in place to hold them back, and they followed their hearts. They dreamed, they dared, and they did. Sally’s dream took her farther than any woman had ever gone before. It took her to the stars.