Hillary’s Girlhood

Myrtle Cagle, astronaut trainee, circa 1961.

The other day, when Hillary’s claim that she wrote to NASA and was told in a responding letter that the space agency “didn’t take girls” struck us as implausible and poorly calculated because obviously checkable, our interest waned at the prospect of FOILing the correspondence.

First Lady in Space Sally Ride is only a few years younger, as James Taranto has pointed out, than Hillary Clinton.

But the really interesting thing is that someone just a few years younger is more likely to have gotten that letter than Hillary was.

In fact NASA was training women until 1962. Hillary was about 15 when they cancelled the Mercury 13 program, which trained a group of women to go into space only to be cancelled when the real prospect of sending them up was before NASA.

Here’s the report from All Things Considered:

Out of a pool of women selected to undergo trials, 13 women endured and passed the battery of grueling physical and psychological tests — the same tests the original Mercury 7 male astronauts underwent at the Lovelace Foundation in Albuquerque, N.M.

In some cases, the women scored better on the tests than their male counterparts.

The names of the women pilots and would-be astronauts — among them, Jerrie Cobb, Wally Funk, Myrtle Cagle, Bernice “B” Steadman — are largely lost to history.

The testing program was halted and eventually scrapped, in large part, Ackmann writes, because of a pervasive “boy’s club” attitude at NASA.

It was several years before they returned to the idea of training women.

That means Hillary has to have written that letter when she was in high school or college, when other reports tell us she pretty well knew what she was going to do with herself. And she wasn’t planning a career as an astronaut.

It’s Sally that would have been a little girl when she got that discouraging note. Hillary would already have been having those heady political discussions around the Rodham family dinner table.

To be fair, nobody, including us, has asked for any more details about that letter. Hillary? You reading this? The comments section is open. You might also address the Sir Edmund Hillary dispute.

– Tom McGeveran Hillary’s Girlhood