For the longest time, women have remained underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). But that didn’t stop them from making strides within these disciplines and paving the way for others to follow their lead.
Case in point is these history-making women who worked for and made lasting contributions to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Let’s look at their incredible achievements in space travel.
First Female Engineer
Engineering, even today, is a field that’s dominated by men. That’s why Kitty O’Brien Joyner’s achievement is so admirable.
After successfully suing the all-male engineering school she attended for refusing to admit her, Joyner became NASA’s first female engineer in 1939. As an electrical engineer, she worked on supersonic flight research and turbines at the space agency.
First African American Manager
Succeeding in a career as a woman in the ’50s is severe enough, imagine doing that while also being black. That didn’t stop mathematician Dorothy Vaughan from trying, though.
She went on to become the first African American manager at NASA and oversaw a group of women analysts called the ‘West Area Computers’. Their inspiring story was turned into a book and adapted to the silver screen in ‘Hidden Figures.’
First African American Woman Engineer
Mary Jackson was one of the women managed by Vaughan. Known as a ‘human computer,’ Jackson overcame the barriers that segregation posed on black people to become the first female black engineer at NASA.
Years later, she used her position at the Langley Research Center to promote the hiring of even more women at the space agency.
First American Woman in Space
Proving that there is nothing a man can do that a woman can’t, Sally Ride went down in history as the first American woman to go to space. She achieved the feat when she flew on the Challenger first in 1983 and again the following year.
Aside from being an astronaut, Ride also taught physics at the University of California-San Diego and created her own nonprofit organization, Sally Ride Science.
First African American Woman in Space
About a decade after Ride’s historic trip to space, Mae Jemison followed her footsteps for another first in NASA history.
Jemison, who’s also a physician and engineer, became the first African American to go to space when she went on a week-long trip aboard Endeavor in 1992.
Now in her 60s, the accomplished woman continues to inspire people by giving talks at various universities.