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Right Stuff, Wrong Sex: America's First Women in Space Program (Gender Relations in the American Experience) Hardcover – October 18, 2004

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Product Details

  • Series: Gender Relations in the American Experience
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (October 18, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801879949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801879944
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,211,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


What this book does better than its competitors is to uncover and present the political story that killed the space program for women in this country.

(Choice 2005-01-00)

Weitekamp's clear prose, engaging style of storytelling, and rich analysis make this not only an important book but a lively and enjoyable read.

(Sarah Eppler Janda H-Minerva, H-Net Reviews 2005-01-00)

The best, most balanced treatment available about the thirteen Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees.

(Amy E. Foster History: Reviews of New Books 2005-01-00)

The most carefully researched and analyzed account of this important chapter in the history of the U.S. space program... Highly recommended.

(Deborah G. Douglas Journal of American History 2005-01-00)

A solidly researched, fact-driven account... Weitekamp is the rare historian who sees the big picture as well as the fine detail.

(Eve Lichtgarn AssociatedContent.com 2006-01-00)

Weitekamp gives us a well-researched... study of this pre-feminist movement attempt to put women into outer space.

(Robert D. Dean American Historical Review 2006-01-00)

This book sets a high standard for future studies of space policy and gender in politics, and includes an outstanding essay on sources that will be of great assistance to students of women's and space history.

(Elizabeth Lutes Hillman Journal of Military History 2006-01-00)

Presents a well documented, skillfully crafted perspective on the stifling political, social, and cultural milieu in which thirteen aspiring female astronauts found themselves during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

(Rick W. Sturdevant Space Times 2006-01-00)

Weitekamp's vivid writing brings to life the texture of American life in what she calls the 'prefeminist' era.

(Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles Historian 2006-01-00)

A solidly researched, fact-driven account of the brief flameout known as Women in Space program.

(Westside Chronicle 2006-01-00)

This book offers a fascinating read for anyone interested in the early history of the American space program, as well as those non-spacers interested in women's studies.

(Satellite Evolution Group 2007-01-00)

Weitekamp has done a terrific job of capturing a fascinating story.

(Joseph Romito Air Power History 2008-01-00)

From the Back Cover

Margaret Weitekamp traces the rise and fall of the Lovelace Woman in Space program within the context of the cold war and the thriving women's aviation culture of the 1950s, showing how the Lovelace trainees challenged prevailing attitudes about women's roles and capabilities. In examining the experiences of the would-be Lady Astronauts, this study documents the achievements and frustrated hopes of a remarkable group of women.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Science Designer on February 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
I am an admirer of Weitekamp's excellent work at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum as Curator of the Social and Cultural History of Spaceflight. Which is why I found this book a little puzzling, as it failed to give an adequate degree of social and cultural context to the area she is discussing. The book collects together all of the facts, and isn't inaccurate. However I found a much superior assessment of the "Mercury 13" program in Burgess and French's book Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965 (Outward Odyssey: A People's History of S). In one extraordinary chapter, they capture the true cultural, historical and social context of this program far better than this entire book-length treatment. They also contrast the Soviet women in space program very well.

Nevertheless, I would still recommend this book as a very interesting read into a fascinating time in American history, and congratulate the author on her great research.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Konstanz Bibo on January 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Margaret Weitekamp's book addresses a long-forgotten but recently rediscovered chapter in American history. At the height of the Space Race's Cold War fervor, a mix of private and public figures made several initial moves in the direction of introducing women to America's space program. None of these women ever really got close to becoming an astronaut due to an array of institutional and cultural constraints to their progress. They have been both lionized and marginalized by different camps over the last 40 years, with distortions and half-truths from every side. Weitekamp's book finally cuts through the clamor. It gathers an enormous array of rare and forgotten documents and details, along with oral history from the women themselves, to weave an authoritative narrative of the events. It should earn its place as a definitive work in this area.

Weitekamp's writing is precise and well-documented, with all the attention to sources and structure that academics need to be kept happy. Her focus is on gender (as befits the subject), but her work gradually yields a subtle examination of the perspectives, motives and positions of the women who confront its cultural manifestations. Like all good history, this reads like a movie waiting to happen. Jackie Cochran is the most intriguing character of the lot, with her political savvy and daredevil streak taking her from setting records on the tarmac to meetings in the Oval Office. Jerrie Cobb, the more public face of the original group of women at the climax of these events, suffered from a political naivety, but came to see the structural impediments to women perhaps more clearly than anyone. Easily the best piece of social and cultural history I've read this year.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Charles J. Rector on June 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
The First Women in Space Program of the 1960's is an endeavor that has become all but forgotten in American history. That is until Margaret A. Weitekamp's recent book about the subject came along.

During the 1950's, there was massive resistance in U.S. government circles against any kind of a space program. There were, however, visionaries such as William Randolph "Randy" Lovelace II who promoted the benefits of a strong space program. It was not until after both the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik in 1957 coupled with the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960 that a strong American space program came into existence.

Since the Kennedy Administration refused to countenance the idea of a women in space program, it was up to the likes of Lovelace & famed aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran to start a private program towards that goal. Another prominent woman in the U.S. aviation industry to support Lovelace's program was Jerrie Cobb who had passed all of the tests that had been administered to the NASA astronauts, but who had been passed over simply because she was a woman.

In the end, Lovelace's program came to naught due to a lack of funding, but the memory of it lives on in this splendid work.
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