- Paperback: 356 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books (October 21, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1568583192
- ISBN-13: 978-1568583198
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #838,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Promised the Moon: The Untold Story of the First Women in the Space Race
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From Publishers Weekly
In one of those strange coincidences that often occur in publishing, this is the second book this summer (after Martha Ackmann's The Mercury 13) to relate the little known but remarkable story of the 13 women who trained in the early 1960s to be Mercury astronauts, and though a slightly less satisfying effort, this is still compelling reading. These women passed many of the same grueling tests taken by the male Mercury astronauts, but they were opposed by virtually everyone in power at NASA. In addition to bringing many of the 13 to life, Nolen, a foreign correspondent for Canada's Toronto Globe and Mail, does an excellent job of describing the social context in which they operated. She explains that although institutional sexism and a strong antifemale bias among most players at NASA certainly existed, American society at large was not yet ready to permit women to be placed in the roles for which these women were training. Even many women felt this way, and Nolen explains how Jackie Cochran, one of America's best-known female aviators, spoke forcefully against sending women into space. Cochran's motives, according to Nolen, were complex; she didn't want to antagonize powerful male friends, she didn't want other women to overshadow her achievements and she felt that women weren't physically capable of performing such activities. Although Nolen interviewed 11 of the original 13, her material isn't quite as personal as Ackmann's. Nonetheless, this is impossible to put down and deserves widespread attention. 30 b&w photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Better books to read to understand the true story are the excellent The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight, the fascinating Right Stuff, Wrong Sex: America's First Women in Space Program (Gender Relations in the American Experience) - and, most recommended, surprisingly, Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965 (Outward Odyssey: A People's History of S). The last book listed here manages to give a correct social, cultural and historical context to this story that all three of the other books lack.
The author does not include dates or references where appropriate. All references are collected in alphabetical order at the end of the book--no foot or endnoting. The lack of dates is at points so great that it is easy to get lost in the timeline of the story, as most of the events of the book take place in a three year span that Nolen jumps around in.
Perhaps the most distressing thing about the book is the tone she takes when talking about NASA and the Mercury 7. At points she inserts off the cuff remarks about NASA leadership or members of the senate that called a hearing into the cancellation of the women's astronaut testing. Nolen takes the anti-NASA side saying that NASA refused to let the testing of the women continue and that they are at fault, when her own book indicates clearly that NASA never wanted the testing done in the first place and had no plans for female astronauts in the 1960's. Many at NASA were insulted, rightfully so, when a group of 13 women said they wanted to be astronauts when NASA had tested hundreds of men and only accepted seven!
Of all the space history books I have read (and I have read well over 30) this one is the worst. I highly advise not spending time on this book.
Every student of the US-Soviet Space Race should have this book. The FLATs have had their story of thirteen women who passed the 1960's astronaut tests (famously described and pictured in "The Right Stuff") told in several media, but Stephanie's is the most thorough job. Her book is liberally sprinkled through with transcripts, letters, interviews, and other primary sources. She presents all sides of the issues, and is exceptionally fair to those who can no longer speak for themselves, especially Jacqueline Cochrane.
Stephanie does an excellent job drawing the reader into the late '50's and early '60's, painting what seems to be an accurate picture of that era. She lets the primary sources speak for themselves and generally comments just enough to keep the narrative going. For example: in my lifetime I have only known John Glenn as a somewhat liberal Democrat senator from Ohio, and part of the Keating Five. Stephanie ably describes how especially he was seen to be nearly a god during the Space Race. We've seen that before in books and movies, but Stephanie's book tells the story from these exceptional women pilots' perspective.
In a nutshell: this is a darn interesting story, and Stephanie writes well and had a good editor. An easy, fascinating read.