THE MERCURY 13: The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight

Martha Ackmann, Author, Lynn Sherr, Foreword by , intro. by Lynn Sherr. Random $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-375-50744-1

In dynamic prose, Ackmann, senior lecturer in women's studies at Mount Holyoke College, relates the story of 13 female pilots who fought to become part of the nation's space program at its inception. Their tale is uplifting, a narrative of their dedication—perhaps obsession might be a better word—and sacrifice in an attempt to aid the nation in the space race against the Soviets and to experience the thrill of space flight. The story is also a depressing indictment of the rampant sexism that kept them from achieving their goal and kept the country from making productive use of their considerable talents. These 13 women, among the most accomplished pilots in the world at the time, went through many of the same challenging, even excruciating tests undergone by NASA's original seven male astronauts but, unlike the latter, the women did so in relative obscurity and often against the express wishes of all arms of the nascent space program. That each woman passed all the tests, often with scores exceeding those of the males, carried absolutely no weight with an entrenched bureaucracy. Ackmann has done a magnificent job of gathering information, conducting interviews and weaving the strands into an utterly compelling book that deserves to be widely read well beyond the circles of the usual readers about the space program. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW. Agent, Ellen Geiger. (On sale June 3)

Forecast:Great reviews and good promotion—this is the story The Right Stuff didn't tell—could lead to big sales for this terrific book.

Reviewed on: 04/21/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
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