Sally Ride America's first woman in space

Lynn Sherr

Book - 2014

The definitive biography of Sally Ride, America's first woman in space, with exclusive insights from Ride's family and partner, by the ABC reporter who covered NASA during its transformation from a test-pilot boys' club to a more inclusive elite.

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New York : Simon & Schuster [2014]
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Physical Description
xxiii, 374 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Lynn Sherr (-)
  • California girl
  • 40-Love, Sally
  • Wait!
  • Thirty-five new guys
  • First
  • Reentry
  • Explosions
  • New territory
  • Down to Earth
  • Sally Ride science
  • Duty calls
  • The secret
  • A very private thing
  • Impact.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* When her unexpected death from cancer was announced in 2012, the national outpouring of grief over the loss of Sally Ride was swift and genuine. The subsequent obituary revelation that Ride was a lesbian in a committed relationship for more than a quarter-century was proof of how successfully the icon had guarded her personal life. With the full cooperation of Ride's family and friends, both inside and outside of NASA (including ex-husband and fellow astronaut Steve Hawley), author Sherr pores over Ride's life, from her tennis-star childhood to her college years in the male-dominated field of physics and meteoric rise as America's first woman in space. As familiar as readers believe themselves to be with Ride's story, Sherr has done an impressive job of uncovering the pressures (and sometimes comical missteps) of NASA's macho culture and its approach to the first class of women astronauts, the unparalleled commitment Ride brought to her job, and the zeal with which she embraced her later challenge to broaden science opportunities for girls. This is an intimate and enormously appealing biography of a fascinating woman, a triumph of research and sensitivity that lives up to its subject and will likely move readers to tears in its final, poignant pages. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Although two Russian women preceded her as spacefarers, Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space, participating in space shuttle missions in 1983 and 1984.  Ride heard about the NASA solicitation for astronaut applicants in the student newspaper at Stanford University, where she earned a PhD in physics in 1978.  At the time, NASA was an organization dominated by white men, and the agency was seeking a more diverse group of astronaut candidates.  Award-winning broadcast journalist Sherr (formerly, ABC News) extensively covers Ride's personal triumphs as well as the challenges of being the first American woman in space and becoming an instant historical figure.  After leaving NASA in 1989, Ride taught at the University of California, San Diego, and in 2001, she started a company, Sally Ride Science, to encourage young people, especially women, to consider science and mathematics as careers.  An intensely private person, Ride found balance in her personal and professional life.  She was a lesbian, which was not well known until her death in 2012, and spent 27 years with her partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy.  This book is one of the best, most interesting biographies that this reviewer has read in many years. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. --J. Z. Kiss, University of Mississippi John Z. Kiss University of Mississippi Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Sherr (former correspondent, ABC News; Swim) and Sally Ride (1951–2012), one of America's most famous astronauts, became friends over the course of interviews while Sherr was covering NASA for ABC. Now Sherr presents the authorized biography of Ride, with their friendship adding a personal dimension to the narrative. The late Ride's partner and family provided Sherr with access to many documents and granted her interviews, so the book includes rich details about the personal life of a very private woman. Drawing upon others' works (e.g., Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff), but also her own detailed interviews with key players, Sherr takes the time to discuss the space race, the challenges for women wishing to become astronauts, and the barriers LGBT scientists (Ride was a physicist) have had to overcome, all of which are important contexts for understanding the significance of Ride's milestone achievements. VERDICT The book is fast paced and an engaging read, though some of the very contemporary references (e.g., to Downton Abbey) may end up dating it. It will appeal to space exploration buffs and fans of popular biography, as well as those seeking books on women's achievements in U.S. history.—Sara R. Tompson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Lib., Pasadena, CA [Page 125]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

When astronaut Dr. Sally Ride died in 2012, the woman who was once the most famous person in the world, shocked many when her obituary revealed that she was survived by her female partner of nearly three decades. Journalist Sherr, a longtime friend of Ride, gets behind the walls of the very guarded and private pioneer in this engrossing biography. Ride's trajectory may have been entirely different if the former top-ranked 1968 college tennis player in the East had pursued the game professionally. But when NASA began recruiting women and minorities in 1976, Ride, who had been the only female student in her undergraduate physics class, beat out 8,000 others to get her spot. It was a heady and historic time, although not without an abundance of sexist and clueless ideas both from NASA (the engineers asking Ride if 100 tampons for a week in space was sufficient) and the press (a reporter infamously asked if she wept when angry). Level-headed and possessed of an optimistic live-in-the-moment attitude, she skillfully navigated such public moments and kept the personal locked away out of view. In the end, Sherr provides a window into one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century. (June) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A definitive portrait of the history-making first American woman astronaut includes coverage of her service aboard the panel that investigated the shuttle disasters, her co-founding of a science-education organization for girls and her guarded personal life. By the award-wining author of Outside the Box.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A portrait of the first American woman astronaut covers her service aboard the panel that investigated the shuttle disasters, her co-founding of a science-education organization for girls, and her guarded personal life.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The definitive biography of Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, with exclusive insights from Ride’s family and partner, by the ABC reporter who covered NASA during its transformation from a test-pilot boys’ club to a more inclusive elite.Sally Ride made history as the first American woman in space. A member of the first astronaut class to include women, she broke through a quarter-century of white male fighter jocks when NASA chose her for the seventh shuttle mission, cracking the celestial ceiling and inspiring several generations of women.After a second flight, Ride served on the panels investigating the Challenger explosion and the Columbia disintegration that killed all aboard. In both instances she faulted NASA’s rush to meet mission deadlines and its organizational failures. She cofounded a company promoting science and education for children, especially girls.Sherr also writes about Ride’s scrupulously guarded personal life—she kept her sexual orientation private—with exclusive access to Ride’s partner, her former husband, her family, and countless friends and colleagues. Sherr draws from Ride’s diaries, files, and letters. This is a rich biography of a fascinating woman whose life intersected with revolutionary social and scientific changes in America. Sherr’s revealing portrait is warm and admiring but unsparing. It makes this extraordinarily talented and bold woman, an inspiration to millions, come alive.