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Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars Paperback – January 17, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of April 2016: Women's history buffs rejoice! Wonderfully told and intrinsically captivating, this is the story about the elite group of women in the 40s and 50s who broke gender and science boundaries to transform rocket design and lay the groundwork for U.S. space travel. Not only did I geek out on the incredible look into the early days of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but I also fell in love with these women who quite possibly invented the pant suit, and were vital to America's space travel. --Penny Mann --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From School Library Journal
We take so much for granted now, but in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, women who wanted a career other than homemaker were mostly limited to becoming teachers, nurses, or secretaries, and there was no such thing as maternity leave. However, a few smart young women who loved math were hired to be human computers for the Jet Propulsion Lab in California. What we think of as computers now hadn't been invented yet. These women spent their days writing equations and computing numbers with pencils, paper, and slide rules to give the male engineers the information they needed to build rockets, satellites, and space shuttles. This selection will surprise and thrill teens not only because it honors the crucial work of these female scientists but also because it shows their individual humanity—their favorite fashions, their personal relationships—within the broader context of the international space race, changes in U.S. society brought about by feminism and integration, and transformations in American daily life brought about by evolving technology. Teen book clubs will enjoy discussing the pros and cons of all-female work groups, the costs and benefits of space exploration, and more. Readers will want to search online for information about the Juno probe, mentioned in the "1970s-Today" section as orbiting Jupiter in July 2016. The extensive notes section details the many first-person interviews conducted by the author, plus the archival materials she used. VERDICT An engaging, inspiring offering that will appeal to fans of history, science, and feminism.—Hope Baugh, Carmel Clay Public Library, Carmel, IN --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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As the work grew, and young JPL expanded, the number of women "computers" (they computed! The term predates the machines) grew. The woman who was in charge of the "computers," Macie Roberts, hired only women for the department, because she wanted to preserve the camaraderie and team spirit so essential to this critical work. Thus, in a benevolent form of gender discrimination, JPL developed a sterling team of brilliant women. Macie often reminded the women, "In this job you need to look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, and work like a dog."
As we learn about the development of rocketry, the author, Nathalia Holt, weaves in cultural developments, such as the invention of pantyhose and the rise of the women's liberation movement. She also includes snippets from the women's personal lives (like the fact that pregnancy meant instant termination--until the program realized it was dead without the women computers, and adapted flexibility to accommodate them).
The women went from pencils and notebook paper to making history. Their calculations put the first man on the moon. Their formulas became code, and they became the first computer programmers. As Holt says, "You can write a lot of programs in five decades. The code that (the women) wrote would continue to work its way into spacecraft, navigation systems, climate studies, and Mars rovers. It would get spliced up and repurposed, pasted into different missions, sent out into space, driven on far-off planets...to (currently orbiting Mars and Saturn spacecraft)...to future Earth-orbiting instruments designed to study our own world."
If you are one of those who believes females aren't geared toward math and science, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to read this engaging, compelling book. It will tell you of a time when women, using only their minds and pencils, rendered the complex calculations that allowed the United States of America to have a space program at all.
I highly recommend this to anyone interested in our space program.
I also highly recommend it to anyone who has any doubts of a woman's ability to succeed in a Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) field.
Just an amazing story about some amazingly talented women who did amazing things.