You've no doubt heard about the Mercury 7 astronauts, but have you ever heard of the "Mercury 13"? This was a group of thirteen women who paved the way for future female astronauts.
In 1959, Randolph Lovelace was the doctor who put the Mercury 7 men through all of their astronaut testing. He also believed that women could be astronauts and wanted to test them to prove it. Thirteen female pilots passed all the intense physical and psychological tests with flying colors - often performing much better than the men while complaining less! However, because of the social climate of the time, these women were not offered the chance to become astronauts. They faced extreme prejudice and were even blocked by a fellow female pilot, Jackie Cochran. Not to mention the requirement that astronauts must be jet test pilots - military men. Women were not allowed to be jet test pilots and were therefore not allowed to be astronauts (although the rule WAS bent for John Glen).
All of these roadblocks prevented the Mercury 13 women from becoming astronauts, but after the women's liberation movement, NASA began to reconsider women as astronauts. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983. However, the Mercury 13 women were even more excited for Eileen Collins, the first woman to pilot a space shuttle and to serve as a space shuttle commander. Eight of those women were there to see Eileen's launch.
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream is a well-researched book that sheds light on the prejudiced attitudes women had to face as they pursued their dreams. The Mercury 13 women had "the right stuff," and it is unfortunate that they were blocked from achieving their goal of space flight. This inspirational book challenges girls to follow their dreams no matter what obstacles they might face.