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  • Writer's pictureMatilda Butler

Discover This Amazing Woman. She Aimed for the Stars. Who Is She?





Don’t Let the Odds Stop You!

After researching Sally Ride’s life, Kendra and I found we could close our eyes and imagine her saying:

"Just think about the odds of me becoming an astronaut.

I was:

  • 1 of 20,440 people requesting a NASA astronaut application

  • 1 of 8079 completing the application

  • 1 of 5680 considered qualified

  • 1 of 1251 women

  • 1 of 35 selected by NASA for Astronaut Group 8

  • 1 of 6 women chosen

  • The FIRST American Woman to Fly in Space"

Now, also imagine this...

Bright morning sunshine streaming in through the cafeteria window—steaming hot breakfast on her tray. Holding a forkful of scrambled eggs in her right hand, she scans the Stanford Daily Newspaper that lays open on the table. As soon as she sees NASA’s ad for the astronaut program AND that women could apply for the first time, she abandons her breakfast, goes to her room, and immediately writes a letter asking NASA for an application.

That was 1977...

...and Sally Ride was finishing her Ph.D. in physics at Stanford University.

Was it always Sally Ride's goal to fly in space?

No. As a child, she wanted to play shortstop for the Dodgers, her hometown team. Her mother, after telling Sally that was a job a girl could not have, suggested she play tennis. And she did. Years later, she even played in an exhibition doubles match opposite Billie Jean King during a summer camp where Sally was a tennis instructor.

Science is the Winner.

Science became Sally’s true love. Her parents didn’t know where the interest came from. However they encouraged her with a chemistry set, books, and a telescope. They did their part to ensure she had the building blocks for scientific knowledge.

Women in Science?

What about other women in science. They must have inspired Sally! Unfortunately, NO.

Sally had few female role models. In the mid-1970s when she graduated, just—

  • 3% of engineering bachelor degrees were awarded to women,

  • 10% in physics,

  • 23% in chemistry.

The story was even less bright for graduate degrees—women received

  • 2% of engineering doctorates,

  • 4% in physics,

  • 12% in chemistry.

And women in the workforce? Hopefully there were many role models for Sally. No, you had to look hard to find them. Women were:

  • less than 5% of physicists and astronomers

  • only 15% of chemists.


Was It Easy to Be the First Female Astronaut?

It Wasn’t Easy, but a sense of humor helped. The lopsided expectations of what women vs. men should be doing surfaced in many ways including unwanted attention from journalists. Some posed sexist questions—

  • “What makeup will you take on the shuttle?”

  • “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?”

In response to that second question, Sally laughed, gestured to her crew mate Rick Hauck, and said, “Why don’t you ask Rick that question?”

Another time, when a journalist said, “Why didn’t you try for a tennis career?”, she answered jokingly, “My forehand.”

But Actually, Her Years of Tennis...

...practice may have helped Sally become the first American female to fly into space. One qualifying test was the ability to maneuver a robotic arm for the release of satellites. Her skills from tennis meant she excelled at this.

Not Once, but Twice, and Almost Thrice

  • 1983 was Sally’s first flight aboard Space Shuttle Challenger.

  • Her second shuttle flight in 1984 also made history—this time as the first space mission with two female crew members.

  • She was training for a third flight on the shuttle when the Challenger exploded in 1986 while on another mission.

Sally served on the presidential commission investigating the Challenger disaster. And when shuttle Columbia broke up on reentry in 2003, Sally became the only person to serve on both commissions investigating the tragedies.

Post-NASA...AKA Is There Life After NASA?

After leaving NASA, Sally worked as a physicist and professor at the University of California, San Diego, wrote children’s books, and encouraged girls to pursue science through her science education company.

Words from Amazing Woman - Sally Ride

Sally Ride, American astronaut, was born on

May 26,1951

and died of pancreatic cancer on

July 23, 2012.

We found many Sally Ride quotes and have curated the list below. These are the ones we found inspirational and filled with important life advice. As you read these eight quotes from this amazing woman, make a note of the ones that provide inspirational advice for you.

We enjoyed choosing these, but you get to decide which ones are inspirational for you. Keep one quote near your desk this week, contemplating how it might change your life as well as those of others for the better. You may decide to share one or two of these with a sibling or BFF.

  1. “I would like to be remembered as someone who was not afraid to do what she wanted to do, and as someone who took risks along the way in order to achieve her goals.”

  2. “If I think I've accomplished what I set out to accomplish, then that's achievement.”

  3. “All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.”

  4. “The thing I'll remember most about my first flight into space is that it was fun.”

  5. “Science is fun. It is curiosity. We all have a natural curiosity.”

  6. “If it wasn’t for the women’s movement, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

  7. “Girls just need support, encouragement, and mentoring to follow through with the sciences.”

  8. “I suggest taking a high road, having a little sense of humor and letting things roll off your back.”

And finally, here's one more Sally Ride quote that is applicable for all of our lives:

“Three secrets to success:

  • Learn new things.

  • Assimilate new information quickly.

  • Get along with and work with other people.” ~Sally Ride

Did You Know, Sally Ride Received the Medal of Freedom?

In 2013, President Obama honored Sally Ride posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

During the ceremony, Obama presented the award to Tam Elizabeth O’Shaughnessy, Sally’s life partner of 27 years. (Tam is a children's science writer, former professional tennis player, professor, and co-founder (with Sally Ride) of the science education company Sally Ride Science.

"As the first American woman in space, Sally did not just break the stratospheric glass ceiling, she blasted through it," Obama said. "And when she came back to Earth, she devoted her life to helping girls excel in fields like math, science and engineering.”



Don’t Let the Odds Stop You!

We hope that’s what you’ll take away from this RosieCentral blog Discover Amazing Women.


Most weeks we include a prompt for writing and/or action. Why? It is super easy to scan an article, feel inspired or encouraged or empowered, and then promptly forget about it. We know you are busy, so our prompts are designed to just give you enough time to focus on writing or action you can take to help you incorporate the week's inspiration into your life. In the future, we will move these prompts to our Writing Wednesday blogs.

But for today...

Right now...before you get distracted, take 5 or 10 minutes and write about a:

  • Time when you let the unfavorable odds keep you from achieving your goal.

  • OR, write about a time when you kept going AGAINST the odds. Be sure to include what inspired you to not accept the unfavorable odds. Remember, it is wonderful when we can realize the inspiration we can have from actions we have already taken.

Missed Our Previous Blogs? Check these out!

Rosie the Riveter's Riveting Story -- Find out the connection to Jackie Kennedy's fashion designer and Rosalind Palmer Walter (major funder of public television).

Wendy the Welder (Rosie's Co-Worker)

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Thank you for these amazing women bios. They are so much fun to read. I really liked the inventor Margaret Knight. I hope you'll consider doing some more female inventors. Thanks.

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