Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Memo to 'The Ladies': Technology Is Cool

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Memo to 'The Ladies': Technology Is Cool

Article excerpt

TWENTY YEARS AGO WEDNESDAY, at 7:33 a.m. on a clear Florida morning, a 32-year-old physicist with four degrees and a ready smile rode into history books with an impressive achievement: She became the first American woman in space.

Fanfare accompanied the liftoff from Cape Canaveral as Sally Ride and four other astronauts aboard the Challenger hurtled into space. Among the celebrities cheering for Dr. Ride were two leaders of the women's movement, Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda. Other onlookers sported T-shirts bearing the upbeat message, "Ride, Sally Ride."

President Reagan hailed her flight as "another example of the great strides women have made in our country." And Lt. Gen. James Abrahamson, a NASA administrator, called the mission "a milestone as far as ladies are concerned." The next milestone, he predicted, would come "when ladies go into space and nobody notices; they just take it for granted."

Ah, ladies in space. How quaint it all sounded in 1983, as if Ride were performing her weightless duties in high heels, stockings, and lipstick.

Now the milestone the general hoped for has become a reality. Since Ride's achievement, 30 other "ladies" have flown on space missions as NASA astronauts. Women's presence has become so common, in fact, that most people no longer single them out.

In the 1970s and '80s, as barriers to employment and promotion slowly fell, newspaper headlines trumpeted other "first-woman" achievements as members of the "second sex" rose to new heights in business and politics: first woman mayor, first woman CEO, first woman governor, first woman vice presidential candidate. The list goes on.

Today young women take those achievements for granted. This month, headlines are also buzzing with the news that it is boys who now rank as the "second sex" in some schools. In what is being called a "gender takeover," girls are leading the way in academics, extracurricular activities, and student government. …

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