The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight

Wednesday November 13, 2019 at 6:00 PM


Meet author Martha Ackmann and learn about the Mercury 13, a group of women who trained to become astronauts for America's first human spaceflight program in the early 1960s.

In 1961, just as NASA launched its first man into space, a group of women underwent secret testing in the hopes of becoming America’s first female astronauts. They passed the same battery of tests as did the Mercury 7 astronauts, but they were summarily dismissed by the boys’ club at NASA and in the halls of Congress. The USSR sent its first woman into space in 1963; the United States did not follow suit for another twenty years.
The Mercury 13 tells the story of the dramatic events surrounding these thirteen remarkable women, all crackerjack pilots and patriots who sometimes sacrificed jobs and marriages for a chance to participate in America’s space race against the Soviet Union. In addition to talking extensively to these pioneers, Ackmann interviewed Chuck Yeager, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, and others with first-hand knowledge of the program, and includes never-before-seen photographs of the Mercury 13 passing their tests at the legendary Lovelace Foundation in New Mexico.

Despite the crushing disappointment of watching their dreams derailed, the Mercury 13 went on to extraordinary achievement: Jerrie Cobb, who began flying when she was so small she had to sit on pillows to see out of the cockpit, dedicated her life to flying solo missionary flights to the Amazon rainforest; Wally Funk, who talked her way into the astronaut trials, went on to become one of the first female FAA investigators; Janey Hart, mother of nine and, at age forty, the oldest astronaut candidate, had the political savvy to steer the women through congressional hearings and later helped found the National Organization for Women.
A lasting tribute to these remarkable women, The Mercury 13 is an unforgettable story of determination, resilience, and inextinguishable hope.

Martha Ackmann tells dynamic stories of American women who've broken barriers, fought against the status quo, dreamed big dreams, and changed America. She is the author of 'Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League' and 'The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight.' Martha's talks have inspired audiences from scientists at Kennedy Space Center to women baseball players from the hit movie, 'A League of Their Own.' She has appeared on the 'Today' show, CBS, CNN, the BBC and NPR. Her columns on politics, women's history, sports and aviation have appeared in many publications, including 'The New York Times,' the 'Los Angeles Times,' the 'Chicago Tribune' and A theatrical adaptation of Ackman's 'Curveball' was onstage at the Roundabout Theatre in NYC from May - August of 2019.

Learn more about Martha Ackmann and the Mercury 13 here:

Free and open to the public.
Sponsored by the Friends of the Athol Public Library.