Cover image for Fighting for space : two pilots and their historic battle for female spaceflight
Fighting for space : two pilots and their historic battle for female spaceflight
1st ed.
Physical Description:
xxi, 426 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm.
The mostly-unknown tale of Jackie Cochran and Jerrie Cobb--two accomplished aviatrixes, one generation apart, who each dreamed of being the first woman in space, but along the way battled their egos, their expectations, and ultimately the patriarchal society that stood between them and the stars. --


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Book 920 TEI 1 1
Book 920 TEI 1 1

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Spaceflight historian Amy Shira Teitel tells the riveting story of the female pilots who each dreamed of being the first American woman in space.

When the space age dawned in the late 1950s, Jackie Cochran held more propeller and jet flying records than any pilot of the twentieth century-man or woman. She had led the Women's Auxiliary Service Pilots during the Second World War, was the first woman to break the sound barrier, ran her own luxury cosmetics company, and counted multiple presidents among her personal friends. She was more qualified than any woman in the world to make the leap from atmosphere to orbit. Yet it was Jerrie Cobb, twenty-five years Jackie's junior and a record-holding pilot in her own right, who finagled her way into taking the same medical tests as the Mercury astronauts. The prospect of flying in space quickly became her obsession.

While the American and international media spun the shocking story of a "woman astronaut" program, Jackie and Jerrie struggled to gain control of the narrative, each hoping to turn the rumored program into their own ideal reality-an issue that ultimately went all the way to Congress.

This dual biography of audacious trailblazers Jackie Cochran and Jerrie Cobb presents these fascinating and fearless women in all their glory and grit, using their stories as guides through the shifting social, political, and technical landscape of the time.

Author Notes

Amy Shira Teitel is a spaceflight historian, author, and public speaker who, much like her subjects, is one of the few academically trained young women in her field. She earned a bachelor's degree with combined honors in history of science and technology and classics as well as a master's in science and technology studies before leaving academia for popular science writing. She has since written for more than two dozen websites including the BBC and Time magazine online, earned a Group Achievement Award from NASA as part of the New Horizons mission to Pluto team, and appears frequently as an expert interviewee in a number of TV shows and documentaries. She also maintains her blog, Vintage Space, and its companion YouTube channel.

Reviews 2

Kirkus Review

A dual biography reveals women's trailblazing roles in aviation.Spaceflight historian Teitel (Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA, 2016), who was an embedded journalist with the New Horizons mission to Pluto team in 2015, brings considerable excitement and knowledge about U.S. space programs to her close look at the life and career of two pioneering women pilots: Jackie Cochran (1906-1980) and Jerrie Cobb (1931-2019). At the start of her career, Cochran fought to be taken seriously, facing down men who tried to discourage her. The winner of multiple awards for her flying prowess, she was the only female entrant in the 1937 Bendix race, which added "a new women's cross-country speed record" to her accomplishments. In 1938, she was named "First Lady of the Air Lanes." At the start of World War II, she established the Women's Flying Training Detachment, a precursor to the Women Airforce Service Pilots program, instituted at 120 Air Force bases, where women pilots tested planes, flew simulated operations, and flew cargo, weapons, and personnel around the country. Cochran directed the WASP program and flew bomber planes during the war. She also became a war correspondent for a magazine that her wealthy and doting husband bought to facilitate her overseas assignments. In 1956, Cochran lost a congressional bid, but she used her celebrity and money to support women's training as aviators. Cobb, a generation younger, confronted the same prejudice against women pilots that Cochran faced. A NASA administrator who opposed a female astronaut program once described himself as "one of the old school" in favor of keeping women "barefoot and pregnant." Nevertheless, Cobb proved as ardent as Cochran, submitting herself as a test subject for astronaut training, recruiting other women pilots, and lobbying with NASA director James Webb to admit women as astronauts. Cobb faced opposition not only from NASA, but also from Cochran, who adamantly opposed women's astronaut training; wielding her high-level political connections (Lyndon Johnson was a friend), she saw Cobb's efforts quashed.A well-researched contribution to women's and aviation history. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

After a 1962 U.S. Congressional hearing on women in space (the so-called Mercury 13), it took 20 years before Sally Ride make her historic flight. At the hearing's center were two accomplished pilots who dominated the national conversation on the subject: Jackie Cochran and Jerrie Cobb. Competitors, even enemies, they presented conflicting viewpoints on the topic and consistently fought over the limelight. Spaceflight historian Teitel took a deep dive into a host of public records to craft this dual biography of Cochran and Cobb, creating a firm portrait of two driven and determined individuals. The crux of their conflict was whether NASA should support women going to space sooner rather than later. Teitel clearly presents their positions but there remains a great deal of grey area regarding how and why they acted as they did. Teitel appears to side with Cochran and the book's abrupt ending raises questions about Cobb's later endeavors. Pair this with other titles on the subject, such as Into That Silent Sea (2007) and Wally Funk's Race for Space (2019).--Colleen Mondor Copyright 2020 Booklist