Sally Ride

Wednesday Geek Woman: Sally Ride, astronaut and first American woman in space

Posted: 13 Jul 2011 08:00 AM PDT

This is a guest post by Maya. This entry originally appeared at the Project Exploration blog.

Sally Ride. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sally Ride was born in 1951 in Los Angeles, California. As a young woman, her interests included science and tennis. She was a nationally ranked amateur, and she briefly left college to pursue tennis as a career. After several months of practice, she gave up on the idea and transferred to Stanford University, where she double majored in English and physics. After completing her undergraduate degree, she remained at Stanford to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate in physics.

After completing her education, Ride joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She trained rigorously for a year, during which time she collaborated on the development of the Space Shuttle’s robot arm and worked in mission control as a Capsule Communicator. Once her training was completed, she was assigned to the Space Shuttle Challenger. When the shuttle was launched on June 18, 1983, Ride became the first American woman in space. Her second and final flight took place the following year. Over the course of her two missions, she spent a total of 14 days in space.

Ride was scheduled to take a third flight, but all training was suspended after the tragic Challenger accident in 1986. Instead, she was appointed to the Presidential Commission responsible for investigating the disaster. After the investigation was completed, she was assigned to NASA Headquarters.

Sally Ride aboard the Space Shuttle. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1989, Ride was offered a faculty position at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). At UCSD, she filled two roles—professor of physics and Director of the California Space Institute. In 2001, she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science, with the goal of promoting science education. She is now on leave from the university, working as president and chief executive officer of Sally Ride Science.

Ride has received numerous awards for her accomplishments. She has been inducted into the California Hall of Fame, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and the Aviation Hall of Fame. She is also a two-time NASA Space Flight Medalist.

Science is Ride’s passion, and she has written 6 books for children about space. She continues working to improve opportunities in science education, particularly for girls and young women. She hopes that today’s young people will come to share her love of science.





Sally Ride Science


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On doing what it takes, and then some

Wednesday Geek Woman: Pancho Barnes

Posted: 12 Jan 2011 08:00 AM PST

This is a guest post by Kelly Seiler, who blogs at Undercover Feminist. She is an electrical engineer working on the avionics for an unmanned airplane.

I heard about Pancho Barnes when the documentary, “The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club” was screened at an after work event. As an engineer working in aerospace, I was definitely the target audience! I was extremely impressed by this woman, a legend of the Golden Age of Flight, who I had never heard anything about before. The Golden Age of Flight was the period between the two world wars that saw airplanes go from fabric and wood to metal structure. Flight records were set for what today are everyday occurrences (think: transatlantic flights).

When Pancho heard that pilot licenses weren’t being given to women, she dressed as a man for the picture on her license and sent in the paperwork using her initials. She flew as a stunt pilot for Hollywood films and was Lockheed’s first female test pilot. As times changed Pancho sold her Hollywood apartment and bought land in the desert near Edwards Air Force Base which she used to create the Happy Bottom Riding Club. The club featured a FAA approved runway, bar, restaurant, dude ranch, and a dance hall. Test pilots, aviation legends, and even heads of state were known to frequent the club which had over 9,000 members worldwide at its peak.

If your interested in some of the other female flying legends, check out The Ninety-Nines — a woman’s flying club that was founded by 99 licensed female pilots in 1929. Amelia Earhart was its first president.

Wikipedia: Pancho Barnes

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Geek Women

This is a guest post by L. Minter. L. Minter is a feminist biology student and a blogger at Feminist Book Club.

Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was born on a farm in Pennsylvania where she was an avid reader and had her first story published when she was eleven. She attended Pennsylvania College for Women (now known as Chatham University) where she started an english degree but later switched to biology. She continued her studies of Zoology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins University. She earned her Master’s degree and intended to obtain a doctorate’s but was forced to quit school due to family and financial situations.

She became the Junior Aquatic Biologist (and only the second women to be hired full time) at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. During this time she featured several articles in the Baltimore Sun and in 1941, published Under the Sea Wind, which received excellent reviews. She continued to publish articles for Sun Magazine and Nature. In 1950, she published The Sea Around Us, which became a bestseller and award-winning documentary. After the success of The Sea Around Us, she re-released Under the Sea Wind, which also became a bestseller.

It was also during this time that she became interested in DDT, a new pesticide that had undergone very few tests. Because of the success of her two bestselling books, she became a full time writer and published At the Edge of the Sea, which describes coastal ecosystems, particularly along the Atlantic.

Arguably, her most influential piece of work was the book Silent Spring, where she recounts the ecological horrors caused by the indiscriminate spraying of pesticides. Silent Spring was so moving and so successful (as well as controversial), that it led to the ban of DDT and is widely credited with sparking the environmental movement.

Weakened from breast cancer and her treatment regimen, Carson became ill with a respiratory virus in January 1964. Her condition worsened, and in February, doctors found that she had severe anemia from her radiation treatments and in March discovered that the cancer had reached her liver. She died of a heart attack on April 14, 1964.

During her last year, although battling cancer, she gave many speeches at receptions and dinners held in her honor and received many awards for her lifetime achievements, including: The Audubon Medal from the National Audubon Society, the Cullum Medal from the American Geographical Society, and was inducted into the National Academy of Arts and Letters.

Her philosophies about the environment and how we treat it are not only still very relevant, but her work is still widely used and valuable in the science and environmental community.

Day One

Gad, what a cool experience.  Silver, you’d LOVE it.  Tomorrow, Liz Henry, BlogHer geek extraordinaire,  is giving a walkthrough on building WordPress templates.  You can bet I’ll be there.   

Today I went and participated in the groups that talked about online identity and all things Twitter.  Very interesting, very enlightening.  I hope I can convey some of it to my peeps at work that need it.   And are afraid of it.

Everyone always started out with, “But I don’t CARE that so-and-so just had a burrito for lunch! ” which was sort of the rallying cry for the beginning twitterers.  It ended up being the common denominator, came up at least once and generally more than once at every session.  The twitternosti would start out, “After I learned how to sort past the burritos…” and go on with their tales of Twitter In Real Life.  

One interesting woman who is being deported tomorrow because she lost her job here  and is a Canadian citizen (sad but interesting) told us a story about the power of twitter.  She said her friend was stuck on a runway (AA) in Portland, not being served food or drink, couldn’t get off the plane, and they were told it would be 5 hours before they could get to the gate.  The friend couldn’t get to her luggage for medicines that she needed, and started twittering about it.  Cathy (soon to be deportee) read for an hour or so, and then decided she’d twitter the local news station.  The news station asked if they could have the friend’s cell number for a phone interview.  Cathy called and got permission, and meanwhile other news stations picked it up, and it hit the news.  Lo and behold they soon let the plane go with apologies.  The Power of Twitter!

The most interesting things that I heard today had to do with whether or not you can really be yourself online.  I heard a depressing (but instructional) story about a woman who took naked pictures, covered with a Quake (game) box for a promotion – to win a prize.  The woman who did it was telling the story.  That picture has haunted her for years now.   I’ll bet if you google naked quake box you’ll still find Stephanie somewhere, even though she has tried to get people to pull it down now that she’s a grown up with a real career and real people to answer to.   Oh yeah, I just googled it.  There it was. There she was. With her first and last name.  Gawd!  I’m glad I was never quite that unaware of the Real World.  When she went and interviewed at AOL the first thing the interviewer said was, “How about that naked Quake box picture?”  I’d be peeling up floor tile trying to disappear.  

Moral of this story is Don’t Use Your Real Name if you’re going to do dicey things.  If you can stand behind everything you do online and wouldn’t care too much if it was on the cover of the New York Times and your boss (and all your future bosses) read it, then you’re okay.  Good advice to the youngsters out there.  Made me glad I’m kind of old with hardened skin. 

When I was at the NTEN conference last year there were a lot of dewey-eyed idealistic (and naive) young women who thought it was blasphemy to use two identities, or to curb your postings.  I wondered about it then, and now I think they need a few years of experience under their belts to come to grips with reality.  Or … maybe they were just that tame. 

One last thing – I heard a great phrase about what twitter does with it’s unique viral way of spreading.  Someone said that what twitter does best is “accelerate serendipity.”  Isn’t that great?  Accelerate Serendipity.

Speaking of great, that reminds me.  I got to sit next to one of my heroes today, Lynn Langit, an evangelist from Microsoft.  I don’t love her because she’s MS, it’s because she’s so amazingly smart.  And interesting. She does a lot of different developer stuff, but a lot of what she does is centered around promoting geekiness in girls.   She gets Microsoft to fund educational programs for young women.  But she develops full time, too, and is raising a 10 year old daughter.  

Also (and completely off-topic) :  is it true that they are teaching one space after periods in school now??  I heard that twice yesterday and it freaked me out.

I’m sleepy, going to hit the hay.  I’m sure this will need editing in the morning, but thought I’d get it all down while it was fresh.

Geeking out with the girls

My sometimes sexist and alltimes horny friend had this to say about me coming to She’s Geeky:

“Oooh, will there be a pillow fight? ”

I chided him a little and had him expound on that idea just in case I was misreading it (and him), and he did, gladly and with obvious relish.  

“I can’t help it.  It just makes me happy all over thinking about a roomful of geeky-glasses-wearing women having a monster pillow fight.  It wouldn’t bother me if they’re really smart and scantily clad too… <digging deeper… oh, well.>  A man can dream…”

You know, really, this is more than I needed to know about his fantasies.  


Now:  I am excited to be here.  Most of the people I remember from last year are here again, and quite a few more.  They are all so different, and so interesting.  I’ll probably be the oldest one there, but I don’t think it matters too much.  I can still absorb new things.  Most of the women are from the Silicon Valley area, but some are from my stomping grounds.  There’s a great woman, about my age, who works in Sac for the state doing social network developing.  She has lots of good ideas and knows how move things through the channels to make them happen. Good project manager. I’m going to try and eat dinner with her one night.  

Lots of cool people, cool topics.  I’m not going to present because I don’t know anything (although, actually, I could do some of the planned presentations – just didn’t know that anybody was interested … !) but I will participate in other ways.

She’s Geeky

Okay, I bit the bullet and signed up.

I went last year and it was an interesting combination of scary (there by myself, didn’t know anyone, nearly everyone there was smarter and generally better looking AND younger than I was – I’m talking Google and TiVo techs, guys, plus lots of LinuxChix) and excruciatingly interesting  for almost the same reasons – nearly everyone there was smarter than I am, presenting a huge variety of incredibly interesting and bleeding edge technology talks in an open, lively way by truly interesting women.  I made some online friends there that I still talk to on occasion, which is the most networking I’ve ever done in my whole life.  It’s not my strong suit.  And I haven’t used it for anything except fun. 🙂 But still!

Anyway, I’m going.  It’s new, and hard, and a four hour drive, and I’ll be by myself again but I will know some faces and it should be mostly all good.

A little free advertising

Jinx makes me laugh. Look at this little blurb and T-shirt. And, does the fact that I think it’s really funny mean they’ve hit their geek girl target audience? I think so.

You Hadron Me at Higgs Particle Women’s Tee

You Hadron me at Higgs Particle

You Hadron me at Higgs Particle

Hey, baby, how’s it goin’? Your name is ALICE, is it? That’s a pretty name. You say you’re from the LHC, and you know me? I’m intrigued. I normally have very discerning tastes, but your ample boson really accelerates my heart rate. You’re truly irresistible… as if a black hole was pulling me towards you. Let’s go find somewhere dark (it doesn’t matter where) and do some colliding. Giggity.


I love how people try and come up with new and bizarrely spelled subjects to sneak through the spam filters.

I just got a spam (in my spam filter, thank you Google/Postini) that had a subject line of….

“In Rod We Thrust.”

Hah hah!

Well, it made ME laugh.

She’s Geeky Recap

The She’s Geeky UnConference – I’d go again. Great people. REALLY. And it was an interesting way to structure a meeting. The organizer, Kaliya Harmon, would probably dislike the fact that I called it structure. A few Flickr pics here.

Looks like I should spend more time at BlogHer. There were several interesting women at She’s Geeky who hang out there. I always thought it was too female oriented and I’m not that much of a softy but I’m going to have to go look again.

Two Things I learned:

1. We need to be creating more assistive technology. The boomers are losing their eyes and ears. Dragon Naturally Speaking can bypass the arthritic fingers better these days, but the sight and sound problem is going to be more critical more immediately.

MSN article

2. OPENID appears to be the wave of the future for authentication on the web.
The idea behind this is having one secure place to hold your identity that can authorize you to login to member only sites. You choose who you share your information with. You don’t have to give all the signup information to websites you want to join, you just have them (the relying partner – LiveJournal is one example) authenticate you through your Open ID identity provider.

This all sounds great but not that many places are doing their authorization that way yet. WordPress has a plugin for it that I’ll be installing shortly. So does Firefox. It looks like a good solution to keeping at least some of your personal data to yourself. [And remember: Lie about your birthday, but remember what lie you tell. Use Jan 1 and your birthyear, or maybe April fools day, or whatever your favorite holiday might be. ]

Find an Identity Provider
We looked at Vidoop which uses pictures to foil phishing. It was a nice website, I’ll probably sign up there. Verisign has one, too. You can sign up at more than one, or do different personas for different purposes, i.e., I’d have a work persona and a personal persona.

Other Open ID reading:

Social Networking Bill of Rights:
Augmented Social Network (ASN) at


Cool people I met and talked to/listened to with cool web sites:

  • Elizabeth Perry – she talked about teaching tech to girls, and defining art as real versus digital. She’s a wonderful communicator and made me feel like less of a dork at one point. 🙂
  • Dee Adams – a seriously good minimalist artist with kinesthesia – if I was rich she’d be on my walls
  • Danese from Craft Magazine – wants to give big money to people with projects that can transform ordinary girls into geeks – to bring girls into the Make loop-
  • Debra Roby – a disciplined, energetic crafter boomer on BlogHer
  • Sally from who does diagrams while she talks and turns them into art on the Xerox. She said, “I am replicating the idea of Xerox”. HAHA! Her stuff, what little I saw of it, was great. Somebody stole most of her work on the web, so she’s stingy about what she posts now. Can’t say as I blame her.
  • Ryanne from Ryan is Hungry – a crafter and performer, has a vlog/blog about green things and hacking every day life from which she makes actual money. She said, “Culture is commodified now” which was an interesting idea. We’d all best remember that Love of Money is the Root of All Evil.
  • Roxanne Darling, another literate techy boomer who shoots videos every day from Hawaii. Beachwalks with Rox
  • Ealasaid was another smart woman there I got a big charge out of, but I’m not sure why. Okay, she was funny and friendly and had tastes a lot like mine and thus we attended many of the same sessions. But younger by at least 20 years. Probably 25. So just starting to do it all. I’m trying to link her in because she works at TiVO. And I think TiVo is the best thing since bagel sized toasters.
  • Cheryl Colan from – an irresistible teacher with a true gift for explaining things. I just loved her, she made me feel safe for some reason.
  • Heather Gold, a stand-up comedian and former Apple employee who made me feel not-so-safe. She was so weird and did something strange to me that will probably change my life. A very perceptive person. I went to her class on how to engage audiences in hopes of picking up a trick or two to combat nervousness when speaking in front of people. She said I needed more than a trick or two to get any better, and she’s right, damn her. Having said that, she said I need to find a safe “container” to speak from, figure out a physical ritual to relax me, and remember that talking to an audience is really just like talking to a friend. Pick someone out in the front row and talk to them. If they’re engaged, everyone else will be, too. And don’t use powerpoint except as a backdrop – pictures only if possible. The idea is to engage the audience so that you’re getting feedback from them and not thinking about yourself.

*Other thoughts/notes to myself:

See “My Kid Could Paint That” documentary recommended by Dee Adams
Learn to knit again. Knitting is grounding, and gets you back in your body if you’re a computer geek, yet has a certain amount of geekiness in it in the patterns.

Small is seen as feminine, large is seen as masculine. Cat Allman talked about a project where she knitted a giant roll of cellophane with her arms as knitting needles into a mobius(sp) strip. The guys loved it even if it was knitting.

Crafting is communal, and crafters are always willing to teach the process. Fine art is personal and a much more private process that is NOT really teachable but of course has to be learned.

Painting is a peaceful process and I should get into it again.

Find more Elder Bloggers, er Boomer Bloggers, er whatever the hell I need to connect to.

Get hair like Liz Henry’s (which would REALLY piss her off, I’m sure)

Look up RickOMatic and delve into


Read and figure out how to get my work people into Wikis.
This is going to be a big deal, right after I get the damned website redone. It’s only 5 years overdue, which is like, what, 100 years in web terms? Jeebus Gawd.

Get more girls heading toward technology. Return Susan (from SAGE) Wheeler’s call and see what I can do locally.
ideas: Amy Jussel – this is a strange PR effort and I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or not. I think she talks too much but that’s her raison d’etre if she’s PR. I don’t talk enough….

Find Anna from the Science Education foundation and tell her she rocks
Digigirlz – Lynn Langit, a visible presence for female geekiness from Microsoft runs this. She had kind of a chilly demeanor (my impression, anyway), but was incredibly well-spoken.