The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight
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The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight

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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  193 ratings  ·  29 reviews
For readers ofThe Astronaut Wives Club, The Mercury 13reveals the little-known true story of the remarkable women whotrained for NASAspace flight.

In 1961, just as NASA launched its first man into space, a group of women underwent secret testing in the hopes of becoming America’s first female astronauts. They passed the same battery of tests at the legendary Lovelace Founda...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published July 13th 2004 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published June 3rd 2003)
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Lizabeth Tucker
Back when the American Space Program was just beginning, a few farsighted men began testing women pilots for possible astronaut positions. One of the first chosen for testing was Jerrie Cobb, an Oklahoman who held various world records as a pilot.

Other women who made the initial cut included:

Jan & Marion Dietrich - identical twins from California
Mary Wallace "Wally" Funk - the baby at 22, from Taos
Bernice "B" Steadman - flight operation owner from Michigan
Jean Hixson - Air Forces Reserves o...more
Sharon
Martha Ackmann's book tells the virtually unknown story of thirteen women pilots who did everything in their power to prove that women were as capable of space flight as men, at a time when women were not even allowed to fly jet airplanes. That these ladies faced an uphill battle would be putting it mildly. Societal norms of the late 1950s/early 1960s dictated that women should be homemakers. Simply becoming pilots with thousands of hours of flying time, numerous world records for distance and s...more
J.
Came as a recommendation of Kelly Sue DeConnick, and it did not disappoint. What a fantastic read! Powerful story, and I like that Ackmann focused in on Jerrie Cobb to give us a focal point to move through the history. Jackie Cochran does not come off looking too good, here, though, so be warned: if you go into this book as a fan of Cochran's, I doubt you're going to like her much coming out of it. Fantastic photographic section. I love that the prologue/epilogue work hard to contextualize the s...more
David Glenn Dixon
Washington City Paper
Arts & Entertainment : Book Review

Mercury Blues
By Glenn Dixon • September 12, 2003

Wander around the Kennedy Space Center for a while. Check out the shiny metal suits worn by the first astronauts. Try to cram yourself into the actual-size mockups of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules. It doesn't take long for the truth to sink in: Space was conquered by short people. Five-eleven was the vertical limit for the earliest round of rocket jockeys, dubbed the Mercury 7—gr...more
Lindsey
This was a great book to start my 2014 reading year. It has undeservedly languished on my shelves for nearly 8 years.

Ackmann tells the story of 13 women who passed the same or equivalent tests as those given to the Mercury 7 and other astronaut selectees of the 1960's. In roughly chronological order, she describes the development of a "girl astronaut" program by the U.S. Air Force, its cancellation, a subsequent private program, and how Congress and NASA eventually shut down even that avenue. Th...more
Heather
For me, personally, this book was phenomenal and life-altering. It is decidedly one of the most influential books I've ever read in my life. Very few books lead me to tears, let alone in public places, but this book was so riveting that I could not help myself. I sat on an airplane finishing the book last week, as a female airline pilot sat across the aisle from me. When these astronaut candidates were being trained in the 50's/60's, women were not allowed to be fighter pilots or commercial airl...more
Liz
This has been on my to-read list for years, and I'm so glad I finally read it. It's a truly fascinating story, and covers a lot of ground--the individual women, the scientists interested in helping them qualify for spaceflight, the military brass who did not want them anywhere near space, etc.
It was a great read, and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the history of spaceflight.
Jess
The subject of the women who were tested, largely in parallel, with the original Mercury 7 astronauts is a fascinating one. It made reading the book quite interesting, and if you are familiar with aviation history, many key people are present in this book also. However, my biggest problem with this book is that it was written by a journalist...and like so many other books by journalists, it was hard to follow, not terribly clear about timeframes and places, and full of anecodotes without referen...more
Cait
Thorough, solid, well-written account about a group of women that are still criminally ignored by history. The prose is compelling, even if the outcome is bittersweet. This is the book they deserve.
Sarah
A moving account of the women who, during the early stages of the space program, fought for the opportunity to go into space. Combating the prevailing attitudes of sexism, these daring, devoted pilots risked everything for this opportunity, and underwent many of the same tests that the male astronauts had been through - and they did as well or better than the men. The book celebrates the achievements of these women, emphasizing that even though they never made it into space, their struggle paved...more
Jen
Although it was a bit dry at times, I'm glad I pushed through to read the history of the nearly forgotten women who pushed to become astronauts when NASA first started. Sad to say it took from 1962 when they started initial testing to 1983 before Sally Ride was the first American woman in space -- even more sad that it took until 1999 before the first U.S. woman was a commander of the shuttle (Eileen Collins). The book definitely fleshed out my knowledge of the space race as well as women's hist...more
Shelley Therriault
This is a very interesting and important story about a group of accomplished women who are trying to join the U.S. space program in the early 60s, but who are unable to do so because of the barriers against women. While the concept of the book is excellent, the writing style is painful since the author feels that the reader needs to know every single small detail, no matter how unimportant. I find myself slogging through this when I really should be loving it.
Stephanie
A book about the personalities of the women who tried to be a part of the space program in the 1950s and 1960s, and the obstacles put in their way by the times and the people/social norms and expectations of the times. Really interesting, and really infuriating. (Especially things like "ladies can't go into space, they have WACKY BODIES THAT WE DON'T UNDERSTAND AND ANYWAY SPACE SUITS ARE MADE FOR MENS' BODIES!!!")
Karin


Short and sweet: fairly depressing (but what about early 60s American womanhood isn't, really?), super dry at times (I mean, it's a straight academic history; whaddya want?), but VERY important to know. Best chapter by far = "Project Venus" (and not just bc it includes the insert w/all the boss archival footage). Important chapter in the history of American Women in the 20th century, (slightly) extended mix!
Andrea
I have learned a lot from this book. I never considered myself a feminist, but seeing how life was for female pilots that were trying to become astronauts in the 1960s really made me appreciate the freedoms that have come from their grit. Sometimes the book gets caught up in the little details, but overall a great historical book.
Judy
One of those stories that makes you so mad. Women couldn't be astronauts because they didn't KNOW enough about women medically. What did they KNOW? Women are unpredictable/unreliable during menses!Really? I loved that the women pilots during WW II would just say they were "irregular."
AJ
Very interesting look into many women who wanted to be astronauts in a time when institutional sexism made it impossible. It amazes me how much and how little has changed since then. I still hear people say there is no longer any sexism in the sciences, when I deal with it all the time.
Sarah
This could have been an incredible book, but sadly it got bogged down in the minute details and historical footnotes. Don't get me wrong: this is a story that needs to be told. I had never heard of the women before I read the book. People need to know their story.
Jennifer
Interesting story and I'm glad I read the book but I have to admit that in places it was almost TOO well researched. I didn't need as many minute details and it sometimes failed to keep my attention.
Leslie
We have come a long way. We should never take for granted the rights women have today and should continue to expect equality. Our daughters and there daughters will have more freedoms because of it.
Alice
A decent historical read on the space program regarding the little known facts, stories and challenges women had and what they faced in getting beyond the kitchen.
Joe Faust
Highly readable account of 13 women who trained and tested for the Mercury program, only to be snubbed by NASA and assorted politicians.
Jessica
An interesting non-fiction book about 13 female American pilots trying to break into the male dominated space program in the 1960's.
Stephanie
I did not know this program even existed before this book. It provides an interesting look at history from the female viewpoint.
Eileen
A bit too academic but a great story to have read and learn about these women and the politics of space back then.
Bill
The fascinating--and true-story of an attempt to include women astronauts in Project Mercury in the early 1960s.
Dina
Again...a "women can do anything" book, but it doesn't flow very well.
Caitlin Shaw
One of the best, an little known, stories from the early space race!
Alison
May 02, 2011 Alison rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
I really loved this book.
Mandy Race
Mandy Race marked it as to-read
Jul 08, 2014
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“Jerrie Cobb reached down and pulled the heavy layers of arctic clothing over her navy blue linen dress. ” 1 likes
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