Back in the early 60’s when I was a little girl, I would lie on the grass for hours and watch the clouds and planes and commercial jets fly over my head on their way to some place much more exotic than my front lawn in Sheboygan. It was there on that lawn that I decided I would be a pilot when I grew up. But the world was a different place in the 60’s.
A few weeks ago, I read about a rejection letter that a woman, identified as Miss Kelly, received from NASA in 1962. She had applied to be an astronaut but was turned down simply because she was a girl.
That story actually didn’t surprise me at all, but later, it occurred to me that most of the young women of today probably would not believe it was true.
I was 11-years-old when Miss Kelly received her rejection letter. It was right around that time that I told my Mom and my aunt that I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. With all-knowing snickers and smirks on their faces, they explained to me that there was no way that was going to happen. Girls were not allowed to be pilots. Only boys could be pilots. I could become a stewardess if I was tall enough and pretty enough, but that didn’t interest me at all.
Little did my Mom or my aunt know that that conversation not only ended my dreams of becoming a pilot, it ended a career path that would have led me to sending in my own application to NASA to become an astronaut some 30 years later.
It was only 21 years after Miss Kelly received that letter that Sally Ride took her first ride into space, and last month, NASA announced their newest group of eight astronauts – half of them are women. Things have sure changed since I was a kid.