Starting in the 1960s, with the rise of women’s rights and civil rights movements, women slowly entered professional fields to which they had previously been denied access. Space, both as a field of research and a workplace, was no exception. When NASA selected the first six American female astronauts, they faced a variety of attitudes. This talk explores how Sally Ride (1951–2012), the first female American spacefarer, dealt with the perceived contradiction between being female and being an astronaut in narrative situations. By separating her work into a public and a professional sphere and locating the problem within the public sphere, she emphasized that women’s abilities were not the problem, but rather society’s outdated perceptions. Thus, Ride represented a professional image of astronauts that operated, unlike before, without the notion of gender.
Michèle Matetschk, Historian at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin