Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight” as Want to Read:
The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

by
3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  388 Ratings  ·  52 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Mercury 13, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Mercury 13

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Aletha
Jan 29, 2016 Aletha rated it it was amazing
Probably the most heart breaking and depressing book I have ever read. I was either in tears, totally depressed, frustrated or enraged every chapter. That being said, I think it's a must read. People who advocated for women to have the same opportunities as men should not be forgotten.

I had no idea about the Mercury 13 before I read this book. There were so many amazing women to read about. The emotional distress was worth it.
Catherine Edmundson
Jan 18, 2017 Catherine Edmundson rated it it was amazing
Amazing story about amazing, trailblazing women.
Makes me somewhat ashamed for how little I pushed myself throughout my working life. I could have done more to make the working world a better place.
However, this book did inspire me to figure out how to better use my retirement time to make more of a positive impact on the lives of others.
Lizabeth Tucker
Feb 24, 2013 Lizabeth Tucker rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, reference
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
Rachel
Oct 25, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it
I want to thank the Mercury 13 for proving that women are capable and can do anything they put their minds to do.
Sharon
Apr 20, 2009 Sharon rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Feb 23, 2014 J. rated it it was amazing
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
Carrie
Nov 06, 2014 Carrie marked it as to-read
"Discrimination has nothing to do with chivalry." Ruth Nichols, pilot, contemporary and friendly rival of Amelia Earhart
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
Cheryl
Jan 21, 2017 Cheryl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great story that could have been written better!
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
Alison
Feb 03, 2015 Alison rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
When the Soviets launched Valentina Tereshkova into space in 1963, "Celebrated writer Clare Boothe Luce wrote a scathing article in Life magazine, reminding readers that a year earlier, thirteen American women had asked Congress to send an American woman into space. Where are those thirteen women now? Luce asked. 'The U.S. Team Is Still Warming Up the Bench' the Life headline answered. Luce called the missed opportunity a costly Cold War blunder and excoriated American men for their sexist views ...more
Jarrah
More than 20 years before Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, and three decades before Eileen Collins became the first American woman to command a space shuttle, 13 daring and determined female pilots put their careers, relationships and reputations on the line to try to become astronauts.

Martha Ackmann skillfully tells the story of the Mercury 13, the group of women who began testing to see if they could meet the same qualifications as NASA's male astronauts. Though their prel
...more
Heather
Apr 30, 2008 Heather rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminist-lit
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
Brittany Krueger
Jan 18, 2016 Brittany Krueger rated it really liked it
Before picking up this novel, I had no idea that in the 1960's women underwent astronaut testing. Not only did these women pass the tests, they endured more strenuous testing than male astronaut hopefuls. Unlike with Mercury 7 men, NASA didn’t allow any of the Mercury 13 women to go into space until many years later.

Filled with social and political issues of the time, this novel had me rooting for the Mercury 13 women, hoping that they’d get their chance in space, while knowing they wouldn’t. Wh
...more
Nicole CeBallos
Aug 16, 2015 Nicole CeBallos rated it it was amazing
I would do anything to be able to go to space. I had heard a little about the Mercury 13 and wanted to find out more, so I picked up the book. I read it in less than a day.

I have read thorough WASP archives at TWU and fell in love with the subject. They were fantastic and I'm not sure why they aren't included in high school history classes. If you like Jackie Cochran you most likely won't like this book. I'm aware of the contributions she made for the WASP, but she completely did a 180 on women
...more
Jessica
Aug 16, 2014 Jessica rated it liked it
This is more a book on women's studies than the space race. Don't get me wrong, the space race plays an important role, but this is more about the stumbling blocks and locked doors that prevented women from being part of the infancy of NASA. Some of the descriptions of the scientific studies done on the women were tedious and dry. It would have been nice if there were more personal recollections from the 13. A part of me wishes that my female high school students would read this so that they see ...more
Tony Mercer
Jan 24, 2015 Tony Mercer rated it really liked it
This book was a great tribute to the women of Mercury 13 and very well researched. Their story really is a legacy to women's rights and a black mark on the American space program. I also learned a lot about the history of women during World War II and the 40's, 50's, and 60's. I wish the testing of the Mercury 13 had developed further but the space agency halted the testing before it went very far. The story got a little slow in the middle, but I appreciated how often the author referred to the ...more
Cynda
Aug 29, 2016 Cynda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of women's studies
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christie
Since I am way behind in reviewing I am going to resort to quick and dirty reviews for my last few books to get caught up.

Had high hopes for this book that were mostly met, but at the end of the day it reads more as Jerrie Cobb's biography than a story of all 13 women. It was heartbreaking to read about these women who tried so hard to go to space, but were met with misogyny and sexism at every turn, from both men and other women. It also gives a great look into the different tests that all astr
...more
Jess
Jan 25, 2009 Jess rated it liked it
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
Sarah
Apr 18, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 07, 2014 Jen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 16, 2012 Shelley Therriault rated it liked it
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.
David
Jun 01, 2015 David rated it really liked it
What started out a bit confused and unfocused turned in to a wonderful tale. I hadn't known about the Women in Space program, although having read the Feminine Mystique, it's quite understandable to see where the program ended up, in the short term at least. There are quite a few interesting figures in the book, so it takes a while to settle in and get to know them. This book has me want to meet some of these women, I wonder how they look at the change over all these years.
Karin
Nov 12, 2012 Karin rated it really liked it


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!
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!!!")
Dana
Feb 11, 2015 Dana marked it as stalled-out-on
I couldn't devote the time to reading this in large chunks, so I kept losing the narrative thread and confusing the people involved. A section of images of the people would have been invaluable. But as it was, the names of those involved were too alike to keep it all straight. Fascinating story, but this reader needed some help.
Sarah
Feb 24, 2015 Sarah rated it liked it
Werner Von Braun on the woman astronaut program: "Another question I am frequently asked is 'Do you ever plan to use women astronauts in your space program?' Well, all I can say is that the male astronauts are all for it. And as my friend Bob Gilruth [director of the Manned Spacecraft Centre] says, we reserving 110 pounds of payload for recreational equipment.'

I almost choked.
Andrea
Jan 06, 2009 Andrea rated it really liked it
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.
Liz
Feb 09, 2014 Liz rated it it was amazing
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Flight: My Life in Mission Control
  • We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves
  • Rocketman: Astronaut Pete Conrad's Incredible Ride to the Moon and Beyond
  • Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir
  • Deke!: An Autobiography
  • First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong
  • Apollo: The Race To The Moon
  • The Last Man on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and America's Race in Space
  • Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon
  • Light This Candle: The Life & Times of Alan Shepard--America's First Spaceman
  • First on the Moon: A Voyage with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr.
  • Genesis: The Story Of Apollo 8, The First Manned Flight To Another World
  • Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon
  • Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond
  • Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space
  • Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon
  • Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journey
  • Off the Planet: Surviving Five Perilous Months Aboard the Space Station Mir

Share This Book



“Jerrie Cobb reached down and pulled the heavy layers of arctic clothing over her navy blue linen dress. ” 1 likes
More quotes…