If someone were to ask me to list all of the outstanding achievements of physicist and astronaut, Dr. Sally K. Ride, I wouldn’t know where to begin and surely wouldn’t know how to conclude such a list. Perhaps, it’s because Ride has contributed not just to science, but to humanity, in so many ways that the list would be nearly infinite – or at least it would seem so. Even after her death, Ride’s many contributions have lived on; she continues to inspire women in science, and her impact is still widely recognized.
In 1978, Sally Ride joined NASA after responding to a school newspaper ad inviting women to apply to the astronaut program. One of six women picked, Ride was able to break gender barriers. In 1983, she made history as the first American woman to go to space. Her accomplishments didn’t stop there, however.
Ride went on to become co-founder, president, and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company (with a particular focus on young girls) dedicated to, “[providing] tools for college and career readiness that can build students’ passion for [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields and careers.” Ride also wrote and co-wrote several children’s books about science, received numerous awards for her incredible efforts in science, and was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and the California Hall of Fame among many other accomplishments and honors.
But there was one thing that wasn’t generally known – one thing that many would fail to mention if they were ever asked to write about Dr. Ride. It was something that author, and close-friend of Ride, Lynn Sherrs, couldn’t help but to make very clear in her latest book Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space.
In the biography, Sherrs offers exclusive insight that reveals not just the triumphs and tribulations of the fascinating pioneer, but something far more personal, something Ride was known to be very guarded about… her sexuality. In Sherr’s rich and thoughtful re-telling, she writes about the 27-year relationship between Sally Ride and former professional tennis player, Tam O’Shaughnessy, that had been kept private until after Ride’s death. In her gripping account, Sherr writes about why this was the case – the born-feminist’s concern about the impact her sexual orientation would have on NASA, or fears of decreasing funds for Sally Ride Science. For more reasons than one, it seemed, Sally Ride chose to keep her life very private.
But even plagued by fear or perhaps even shamed, Sherr still describes her kind friend as one who always smiled and never seemed, “down-trotted.” And it’s a good thing she smiled a lot because she had plenty reasons to. The book will go into those cherished moments of Ride’s life, and will also shed light on more crucial moments, such as the Challenger disaster.
All in all, we continue to celebrate Sally Ride’s bravery, achievements, and love. We can recognize her as part of the LGBT community, while also recognizing her significant and revolutionary efforts. A role model to women, and a role model to members of the LGBT community, Sally Ride will forever be remembered as a phenomenal pioneer – and that’s what we hope to take away from this book the most.
To hear Lynn Sherr talk about her new book, listen below.