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Sally Ride. Overcoming obstacles in the ultimate boy’s club

I was sorry to hear that Sally Ride dies this week from pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. The first American woman in space, she was an understated and brilliant astronaut who became an outspoken advocate about girls science and math education. I remembered seeing the pictures of her (with her wild curls) in 1983 when I was in High School. I still couldn’t have done math then but it was big of her to promote it at the time. She was cool.

What was interesting to me is in her obituary, she lists her partner of 27 years, Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy – a woman. So in a move that was unusual and classy her sexual orientation didn’t make it into any of the media. Her orientation had no bearing on who she was, but name another political figure in the US where that fact wouldn’t be the first thing mentioned? Having been to NASA recently, you can’t help but think that the US space program was the ultimate bastion of male testosterone. There is nothing more phallic than one of those rockets. And not only did Dr. Sally handle herself through that with grace and elegance, but she did it as a lesbian. I can’t imagine the strength of character that would have taken in the early 80’s.

I’ve been reading this week about the craziness of American society. With theater massacres, and stories of rampant drug use you can’t help but wonder if it is a culture that has lost its way. And then I read about the women like Sally Ride who are quietly making a difference. More like her please and the world is lessened because she’s not around.

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