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Jerrie Cobb: A heroine of aviation, blocked by the zeitgeist from the Astronaut Corps….

Jerrie Cobb – A Love Affair With the Sky

After a lifetime in aviation, a good deal of it spent flying humanitarian missions in South America, she was also nominated in 1981 for the Nobel Peace Prize.*

… As America began selecting the first astronauts in 1959, Jerrie was picked by the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque to be the first woman to undergo the same physical and psychological fitness testing regimen as the Mercury Astronaut Selection Tests. After passing the tests with flying colors, Jerrie was asked to recruit 25 other qualified women pilots. Twelve passed the first series of tests.

After promising her an early space flight, NASA appointed her the agency’s consultant for the future use of women as astronauts. However, NASA’s requirement that astronauts have military jet test pilot experience eliminated all women since women were not allowed to fly in the military. … She was staggered when John Glenn testified that “men go off and fight the wars and fly the airplanes,” and women are not astronauts because of our social order. Finally, her hopes were deflated. (See Mercury 13.)

A year later, Russia sent the first woman to fly in space, Valentina Tereshkova, a factory worker. The American space program did not open the ranks of its astronaut corps to women until 1978.

The quotes above are only a part of the interesting biographical sketch, “Jerrie Cobb – A Love Affair With the Sky” by Nick Greene, at

http://space.about.com/od/astronautbiographies/a/jerriecobb.htm

I have to make one observation: I have no idea of the full context of the quote from John Glenn’s remarks, but lacking context, on the face of it his comment is correct: It really was the “social order” of that time that prevented women from going into combat and so forth. One cannot fault even a Democrat for speaking the truth; and from the quote itself, alone, we can’t tell whether he approved, disapproved, or was indifferent.

And thanks, RAB, for prompting me (in your comment about Hannah Reitsch) to go look around.

*See also her Wikipedia article, which gives more information on her accomplishments and awards, at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerrie_Cobb

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