Monday, February 15, 2010

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone

An excellent reason for writing history is reminding older readers and informing younger readers how our society has changed for the better. In Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, Tanya Lee Stone does so by reviving a mostly forgotten story about gender discrimination in the American space program.

Since 1995, when NASA honored the thirteen women who wanted to train to be astronauts in the late 1950s and early 1960s, journalists have acknowledged the women in human interest stories, but NASA's role in keeping them on the ground is usually secondary. A research subcontractor named Randy Lovelace knowing that women were as a rule lighter and smaller than men believed that they would be easier to send into space at less cost. He ran his candidates through many of the same strenuous tests as the male astronauts and found the women scored as well or better in many of the trials. How NASA ignored and hid his findings while using the women for publicity is part of Stone's story.

Lee completes the story with how women did make it to space as researchers during the Shuttle program but never as a pilot in command until 1999. She also tells what has become of the women who were grounded so long ago. This book aimed at upper elementary and middle school readers is an interesting read for anyone interest in women's rights.

Stone, Tanya Lee. Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream. Candlewick Press, 2009. ISBN 9780763636111.

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