Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist (2013)
This creative non-fiction book is a good read (written by her son) about another unsung and thankfully not forgotten woman who made a difference but got no credit for for her invention of the rocket fuel that propelled the first US rocket into to space to launch our first satellite. Who knew!? Certainly not in the history books, but everyone knows the ex-Nazi Werner von Braun, also working on rocket projects. Yes, she worked among a team of 900 other men (literally the only woman) but as is described in the book when her position was up for discussion, her supervisor told his boss (who wanted to take her the project because she was a woman) that yes, he had all these other brilliant men working for him but that Mary was the best. This boss was like so many others with their egos and disbelief that a woman can be smart, indeed, smarter than the men.
Several Facebook posts lately have featured young girls discovering remarkable scientific advances and ideas. If we hadn’t suppressed and forced women to be walking wombs, imagine if all that brain power had been allowed to flourish – then and now! The world may well have been peaceful and the climate change might not have happened because some smart and educated woman got her PhD and invented a car that ran on compost or something like that. A plastic-like substance that would biodegrade without harm and not fill the oceans and killing birds and aquatic life. Maybe there would have been less testosterone-fueled egos dominating decision making leading to oil spills, lead leeching pipes, and corrupt business practices. And if half of government leaders were more women, we might not have so many laws concerning our sex lives that take away our freedoms.
The big secret Mary Sherman Morgan hid was that she had become pregnant out-of-wedlock while at college and pre-Roe, became “member of the girls going away club” to have her baby at a birth and adoption agency in one place 550 miles from where she lived. Imagine the social pressure of shame she lived under in the forties and fifties especially. But she knew her life was not going to be one of shame and single motherhood and poverty and no more education. Think of all the women lost to our collective intelligence by being forced to be breeders.
Mary Sherman Morgan’s life of obscurity proves that we must be more vigorous in seeking out authentic history and get a balanced history of the many women’s contributions, for good or ill, that are a part of “his and herstory” before vital recollections and records are lost. And we must respect ourselves and not be quiet little girls in the corner and be modest. Write your story as you live. Keep documents and records of people, places, and accomplishments. At least keep a journal. Your life as a woman matters whether you are a rocket scientist or a mom or whatever. Don’t be lost to your family or the world by obeying patriarchal standards for proper (submissive, quiet, and definitely not self-promoting) female behavior.
Read books about science and history and feminism just to change it up. And for younger woman especially dare to try STEM classes. They might turn out to be fascinating and just what you were born to be, a girl rocket scientist.