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Story Of America’s First Woman In Space Told In New Young Adult Book

Speaker 1: 00:00 Sally ride America's first woman in space left a legacy for young girls here in San Diego and around the world, her history, making trips, aboard the space shuttle challenger and her work as a physicist at UC San Diego serve as an inspiration to women and girls interested in all things science and now Sally ride story is being told along with 12 other inspiring women profiled in the sheep persisted young adult book series and rides book is lucky enough to come out this month. Women's history month. Joining me as the author of she persisted Sally, ride a Tia about a Tia. Welcome to the program. Speaker 2: 00:41 Thank you, Maureen. I'm so happy to be here. Now, Speaker 1: 00:43 Remind us what a breakthrough it was to have Sally ride as an astronaut aboard the space shuttle. There had been lots of hesitation by NASA about women astronauts and really lots of doubts about women's ability to become scientists. Speaker 2: 00:56 Absolutely. Um, so Sally ride was the very first American woman to make it to space and it was a long road to get there. In fact, Sally growing up, never even dreamt of becoming an astronaut because there were no female astronauts back then, uh, she was famously quoted saying, you can't be what you can't see. And in fact, there were legendary male astronauts who were actually blocking females from joining NASA. It was in 1977, after eight years of studying at Stanford, getting her undergraduate graduate and doctorate in physics. And she was a physicist that she went to the school cafeteria. She was munching on some scrambled eggs and a cinnamon roll where she opened the school newspaper. And it said that NASA was finally looking for female astronauts. Uh, Sally quickly applied and she was then sent to Texas where she went through vigorous testing, both physically and mentally and academically. And she made her way as one of the first female astronauts and the very first to make it a space. Speaker 1: 01:59 Was it in Sally ride's background, do you think that helped her break through those barriers? Speaker 2: 02:04 Sally grew up in a time where a lot of girls were told that they're not strong enough. They're not tough enough. Um, and they're just not as good as the boys, but Sally's parents were completely different. They told Sally and her younger sister that they could do anything that they set their minds to and that they should just continue to try. And Sally believed in that. So when given the opportunity, Sally went for it. So if she knew that she wanted something, she went for it. And the only reason she didn't go with the string for NASA when she was younger is because she didn't see any female astronauts back then. But the second that she was given the chance she realized I want this. And she knew that she would get it as long as she worked hard for it. Speaker 1: 02:47 Yeah. How did you go about doing research for the book? I noticed that you even have details about Sally ride when she was a toddler. Did you interview her family members Speaker 2: 02:57 As a journalist myself? The very first thing that I want to do when I do my research is talk to the person that I'm writing about. And unfortunately I couldn't do that with Sally because she passed away in 2012. So actually the second best person that I thought to go to was her life partner, uh, Tam O'Shaughnessy, uh, Tam was her partner in life, as well as partner in science. They created, uh, the Sally ride center, uh, for science together, along with some other friends. So I did interview Tam. I did reach out to see if I could speak to her mother and sister. Her father unfortunately also passed away. Uh, but they weren't feeling well, so they couldn't talk to me, but Tam was gracious enough to have a virtual interview with me through the computer and through the phone. And she also sent me Sally's photo biography. So there was a lot of stories in there about Sally's youth from when she was a baby up until the day that she unfortunately passed away. Speaker 1: 03:52 And you mentioned Sally ride science at UC San Diego. Can you tell us a little bit more about why Sally ride decided to start that? Speaker 2: 04:00 I think it was such an amazing, brilliant idea for Sally and Tam and their other friends to start Sally ride science and their main goal was because of their own experiences. In the past. You know, Sally was told from one teacher to another that she shouldn't be studying science. She shouldn't be studying physics mainly because she was a girl later, a woman. And she was told that she was going to be taking jobs away from the men. Um, and through the years, both Sally and Tam realized that a lot of young girls, as well as young boys were being turned away from science, they didn't think science was cool anymore. They didn't think that science was interesting anymore. They thought that science were was only for particular types of people. Uh, so they wanted to remind children as they got older, that science is still fun. Science is interesting. Science explains pretty much everything, um, that we see in experience in life. Sally would talk about how, even with tennis, you know, physics explained why a ball would curve the way it did after you smacked it with a racket. Uh, it explained that it also explained the cosmos. Uh, so she wanted young children to remember that science is cool and fun. So she created Sally ride science, uh, to share that with, uh, the students, as well as the teachers to keep that spirit alive. Speaker 1: 05:26 Now in doing the research for the book, was there something that you were surprised to learn about Sally ride? Yeah. Speaker 2: 05:32 Yeah. I was actually really surprised to learn that she was not in fact the best student. It didn't mean that she didn't get good grades because she did get good grades, but it meant that if she wasn't motivated by a teacher, she wasn't really motivated by the class. Um, but when a teacher really sparked her interest as did a teacher, when she was in high school as science teacher, that's what really motivated her. And that was one thing that I found very interesting. Another thing that a lot of people don't really know about Sally is that she could have been a professional tennis player. Uh, she was ranked in California by the age of 12. She got one scholarship after another scholarship in tennis for her studies that included going to Westlake high school, uh, in Los Angeles County, which led to her scholarships to Swarthmore college as well as Stanford university. And she actually gave up her studies for a little while to really focus on tennis. But when she was focusing on tennis, she realized that she didn't have that passion, that she really needed to become a professional tennis player, but she later found that passion she needed, uh, when it became to, uh, becoming a astronaut. Speaker 1: 06:40 Yeah. That is a little known aspect of her life. Can you tell us about the sheep persisted books series? What was its inspiration? Speaker 2: 06:49 Chelsea Clinton actually created the series when she wrote some children's books about the sheep persistence series and they were very popular. They were best-selling books, uh, throughout the U S and throughout the world, uh, that the publisher decided that they wanted to reach a little bit of an older audience as well. So grade school, uh, girls and boys, uh, so for that, they wanted more authors to help contribute. And this year they're releasing one book a month about different, amazing females in our history who achieved great things. In fact, they're going to have two books that releases in December. So that's going to be 13 books that are a part of the she persisted series Speaker 1: 07:30 And who were some of the other women profiled? Speaker 2: 07:33 So the January book was on Harriet Tubman. A lot of people know who Harriet Tubman is, but there are some interesting tidbits in the book that I bet some new readers would not know. Uh, February's book was on clot at Colden and not many people know who Claudette Colvin is, but they know about Rosa parks, but Claudette was actually the first person who refused to give up her seat on the back of the bus, but she was only 15 years old at the time. And Rosa parks actually did it a few months after Claudette, later on, we're going to have more women profiled, for instance, Oprah Winfrey, uh, Virginia app, Gar Flo Jo, the fastest woman who was ever alive. Uh, it's going to be an incredible year about learning about people that we may have already known about and others that we don't really know much about. Speaker 1: 08:24 And why did you want to get involved in this particular project about Sally ride? Speaker 2: 08:28 This was really important for me, uh, for many reasons, um, partly because some of these women we've heard of their names, but we don't know their full stories. Uh, we know about legendary male astronauts, but we haven't really heard about the female astronauts. Um, another reason it was really important to just be a part of this series. I would have been honored to write about any of these women, but I particularly chose Sally because I knew about her, but I didn't know enough about her. Um, it was important for me to learn about her, but it was also important for me to share this with the young girls and young boys out there, including my own children. Uh, I want my son to know that women are as good as the boys girls are as good as the boys. That's one thing that I teach him every day and when my daughter gets older, she's to what right now, but as she gets older, I want her to know the same thing. And I think it's important to teach both boys and girls about these great women in our history, because I feel like it's something that I, myself and a lot of my friends were deprived of growing up. Speaker 1: 09:33 I've been speaking with a claimed author and journalist a Tia about the book. Is she persisted Sally ride? It's part of the, she persisted 13 American women who changed the world book series and a Tia. Thank you so much for speaking with us Speaker 2: 09:49 And thank you, Maureen. It's so good to talk. Speaker 3: 09:51 Yeah.

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Sally Ride’s story is being told along with 12 other inspiring women profiled in the "She Persisted" young adult book series.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments