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Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America's First Female Rocket Scientist
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Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America's First Female Rocket Scientist

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  559 Ratings  ·  123 Reviews
This is the extraordinary true story of America's first female rocket scientist, told by her son. It describes Mary Sherman Morgan's crucial contribution to launching America's first satellite and the author's labyrinthine journey to uncover his mother's lost legacy - a legacy buried deep under a lifetime of secrets political, technological, and personal. Blending a fascin ...more
Paperback, 325 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Prometheus Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Jean Poulos
I have read a number of books in the past year about women and minorities in the space field. In June of 2013 a NASA astronaut class was, for the first time, 50 percent women. I read a book a few years ago about Sally Ride on the 30th anniversary of her flight. Also, read of the 50th anniversary of Valentine Tereshkova’s historic space flight. This year I read the books “Rocket Girls” and “Hidden Figures”. It has been a long hard battle for women to be accepted in the field.

This book is about Ma
Mary Sherman Morgan's story is empowering and interesting. I'd love to learn more about her. But, this book is proof that you probably shouldn't pen your mother's biography, insert yourself into the narrative, or make so much of it about you. I tried to overlook all of the times George Morgan's narrative veered to himself and present day, jarring me from the real story. I was even willing to overlook the choppiness of the writing and the comma splices. Until page 278...

"...Like throwing a baby s
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
Although this was an incredibly interesting topic, I found the way in which this book was written to be very jarring. The author frequently mentions how difficult it was to find out about his mother's life and the part she played in the space program, so to read scenes and chapters where he writes whole dialogues and goes through what's going on in her mind was very disconcerting. I understand that he was trying to make the story more interesting by imagining scenes from her life, but it bothere ...more
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I really enjoyed this book. It gave great insight (admittedly, sometimes necessarily creatively embellished) about not only a woman working in the male-dominated world of engineering in the 1950's, but it was also: an eye-opening account of the U.S. at the beginning of the Cold War and the nascent space race; a great reminder of just how much our technology has changed since then, and, by default, how society has changed with the technological advances; AND it was also a moving story about a wom ...more
Apr 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm very glad this book was written. Mary Sherman Morgan's story is very inspiring.
(view spoiler)
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir-biography
In the author’s note at the end of the book, George Morgan tells readers that this is “creative nonfiction,” written to bring out what little information he had in a readable style. The author uses lots of adjectives, and he must feel that that a page without a simile is like a day without sunshine. I liked his first one: “Cutting the grassy plain in two, like a finger run through fresh paint, was a road.” Others sound forced: “Now the number of ‘written record’ claimants is starting to lengthen ...more
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is by far the most extraordinary biography of a scientist/engineer I have ever read.

Mary Sherman Morgan overcame countless obstacles–including poverty, ignorance, physical and emotional abuse, sexism, war, unemployment, exploitation, and government bureaucracy–to become the lynch pin of America's fledgling space program in the 1950's. And after ensuring that her company was firmly established and that the rockets were well on their way to outer space, she purposely retired to intentional ob
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
As children, we all think we know everything that matters about our parents. George Morgan and his sisters knew almost nothing about their mother: her family, her childhood, what she did before them were all closed for discussion. Most of the adults they knew worked at Rocketdyne with her and their father, so their work was secret. They picked up bits and pieces from adult conversation, as children do, but they had no idea that she invented the rocket fuel that powered America's first satellite ...more
Sep 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
It starts out a bit slow, but this book builds up fire and power just like the slow heavy liftoff of the rockets featured within. I'm iffy about "creative" nonfiction that attempts to relate a necessarily embroidered view of real historical events, and this author is unabashed about the task he chose to tackle: to describe the life and achievements of a woman otherwise lost to history. That is, he had little to no primary sources for anything about her. The fact that this woman was his mother cr ...more
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
An insightful and intriguing account of the early space race, beginning with the pre-WWII work of Werner Von Braun and culminating with the successful launch into orbit of Explorer I atop a modified Redstone ICBM.

Mary Morgan, a runaway from a spartan life in rural North Dakota and the lone woman in a field of engineers within North American Aviation, develops the fuel cocktail that enables the Redstone to reach orbit.

Her gift for mathematics and chemistry is offset by her penchant for avoiding t
Ruth Fichter
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
George, you have written a wonderful book! For those who want to know MORE about Mary (I'm referring to several reviews I have read), I can only say, the trouble with THAT is/was Mary herself. Her reticence was what made this such a difficult book to research and write in the first place. Some people may find it hard to believe, but MANY parents never talked much to their children back in the day, and Mary was an extreme example of this. Also, government agencies, some businesses, and MANY famil ...more
Jo Oehrlein
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting weaving of the stories of Werner Von Braun, the Soviet space race, Mary Sherman Morgan's life, and more-or-less the present for the author (who is Mary Sherman Morgan's son).

I'm not 100% how much I got to know Mary through the book, but I did get an appreciation for her work and a part of the Soviet-US space race I didn't know about before.
Leah K
Nov 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: library
Author states at the end it's "creative non-fiction"...that's putting it mildly. Fascinating woman but definitely should have been written by someone else besides her own son. I'll give it a 1.5 star rating.
Sarah Adamson
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction-text
I read this book on and off for a while. I loved the facts about this amazing woman and am glad that the book was written and that people are starting to know who she is. I was fascinated by how much of the story was down the road from where I live (I live near Canoga Park!). However I did struggle with some of the author's style and choice of words.
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Firstly, please accept my apology for the lack of HTML, but it is late and I'm doing this on my iphone. I heard of this biography of a woman lost to history who was the critical developer of the fuel that finally got our first rocket launched into space. The idea intrigued me and brought to mind older iterations of this phenomenon, e.g. "Anonymous was a woman" or Virginia Woolf opining that if Shakespeare had a sister, she would be found dead at the crossroads. So ROCKET GIRL: THE STORY OF MARY ...more
I saw this book at the bookstore and was intrigued, but something about it made me hesitate, and I decided to check it out from the library instead. While I did enjoy this book, I think I'm pretty happy with this decision.

Mary Sherman Morgan's story was fascinating. Born to poor, abusive parents on an isolated farm in North Dakota, who had to be compelled by the state to send her to school. After graduation, she runs away from home to attend college to study chemistry. After a few years, she is
Peter Mcloughlin
Women in science have fewer barriers to entry than in the past. The easier time women have today is in part thanks to pioneers like Mary Sherman Morgan. Morgan was an early pioneer in rocket science in the 1950s. She developed the fuel that got the Redstone rocket engines into low earth orbit and allowed America's first satellites aboard Jupiter rockets. She was keep out of school for three years as a child because her father wanted her to do chores on his North Dakota farm. When she finally got ...more
Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a story that was nearly lost to history, making me wonder how many other stories we may never know about. Mary Sherman Morgan invented the fuel that enabled the first American rockets to launch. Her story was nearly lost due to poor or nonexistent historical records in the space industry, but her son realized this at her death and began to research who his mother really had been. He is an excellent writer, presenting artfully the amazing twists and turns of fate in the lives of American, ...more
Jenny Clark
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Very inspirational. Ib enjoyed the fact that the author told his own story as well as his mothers. The journey to find all the information is woven in very well. I also enjoyed the fact that the storys of Korolev and von Braun are added in. It is amazing that Mary was able to keep her job despite the fact that she never finished college.
The one thing I do dislike is the embellished ending, though it is fitting since that was a thing Mary had always wanted to see and it did happen at one point, j
Lester Cockram
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Found Rocket Girl on the new book shelf at the local library. Once I started the book I did not put it down other than taking a few hours off to sleep. I was 8 years old when Sputnik was launched and it was a joy reading what all went on behind the scenes during the competitive space race times. The cocktail chemistry was just right for all readers and must say that Mary Morgan Sherman was one most interesting, determined, and sharp rocket scientist.
Brianne Reeves
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
I have a lot of thoughts about this. I'll update with a more thorough review, but in short, this book could have had a lot more going for it. The story wasn't really very focused on MSM, it didn't seem to be interested in delving too much into sources or citing where anecdotes were from, it just left me wishing someone who wasn't her son had written it.
Sep 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although creative non-fiction isn't my favorite genre, I couldn't put this book down. Part of it was the local element--Mary Sherman grew up in Ray, ND, but I was fascinated how the girl from ND, without any kind of degree beyond high school, went on to achieve greatness in our country's early rocket/space program.
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fascinating creative nonfiction about the start of the space program and the unknown woman who developed the fuel that made it happen. Even if I don't know what a non-synchronous differential equation is, nor do I particularly care to know, this accessible book definitely kept my interest.
Sep 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this. Good biography. I had seen the premier of the play at Caltech. The book adds some details, but the author's initial instinct was the play. The book is good, I liked the play better.
Lashae Scott
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very interesting read.
Joyb Boggio
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very interesting to read about the space race and the woman without whom the US may not have been at the fire front.
Caitlin Cowden
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Mary Sherman Morgan was no doubt a very remarkable woman, and I am glad her son committed to recording her story. I didn't really enjoy his writing style though. Outside of the extremely excessive and sometimes disturbing similes mentioned in other reviews, I kept getting a sense of vanity from the author. He'd allude to Mary having a son, and then he'd keep emphasizing "that was ME. I'm her son." Yes, we get it. He also included random details on his life, like how he was an honors graduate in ...more
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: space
Based on this book, I think Mary Sherman Morgan was a fascinating person. It's a shame that her private (secretive?) nature will not allow her full story to be known. Secondary source material is as close as anyone can get to the true Mary Sherman Morgan. George Morgan's creative representation of her work experiences made the story interesting and readable. Her demeanor and accomplishments at work balanced the author's less flattering (and possibly more factually accurate) portrayal of her home ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this book more than I expected. It was interesting learning about weapons manufacturing during world war i i , the Cold War and the space race with Russia, and how brilliant (but flawed) Mary Sherman Morgan was.

It's sad she didn't leave journals, more photos, even work-related documents so we could know more about her.

There was some repetition by the author, and the writing was choppy. But I couldn't do better.
Jan Millsapps
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Here's another female aerospace pioneer (like the women in "Hidden Figures") most of us knew nothing about. Multiple storylines - a son's dogged search for facts about his elusive mother, Mary Sherman's impressive biography, and the familiar rush to get the first American satellite into space - intermingle, sometimes more successfully than others. Here's hoping there's a splashy movie in the works!
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A good read 1 8 Jul 19, 2013 08:58AM  
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