Women of History: Sally Ride

When I was 8 years old, the film Apollo 13 came out.  I was immediately fascinated with the space program and its history.  My main focus was on the programs prior to the space shuttle so I never looked into the history of the space shuttle outside of general missions before recently.  However, one of my personal ‘heroes’ was Sally Ride, and I decided for this week to feature the first american woman in space.

Sally Kristen Ride was born on May 26, 1951 in Los Angeles, California. Her parents, while not scientists themselves, promoted her interest in exploring. When she was 12, she was able to see the first female cosmonaut in space, Valentina Tereshkova, take her turn.  It would be 1982 before another woman would enter space.

After graduating from a private high school she attended on tennis scholarship, she attended Swarthmore College.  Eventually she would transfer to Stanford University, where she would earn her bachelor degree in both english and Physics.  She continued her education in physics, eventually gaining her PhD in Physics in 1978.  Her main focus was lasers and astrophysics.

While finishing her doctorate, she answered an advertisement seeking applicants for NASA.  She was chosen to join in 1978, and would continue to be a part of NASA’s team for the next several decades. Her class of astronauts were the first to include women, and she was one of six. She didn’t immediately get on a shuttle.  Her first positions were as a communicator between the ground and the capsule for the second and third space shuttle flights (Columbia STS-2 and STS-3) in the early eighties.  She was also on the team to develop some of the technology that would be installed in later Shuttles, such as the Canada-Arm robotic arm.

In 1982, the USSR launched another woman into space, this time Svetlana Savitskaya.   It would be the following year that Sally got to be the first American woman to reach earth orbit.  Her first mission was the Challenger STS-7 mission.

Like every other astronaut she prepared for her mission, and did press conferences.Prior to the launch in June,  Sally did a press run.  People were fascinated with how a woman would deal with the rigors of space travel – although several questions were sexist in nature.  She was asked about her reproductive cycle, and if she cried if things went wrong. People at NASA wondered if she needed a 100 tampons on her trip.

On June 18, 1983, the Challenger launched and was in orbit for nearly seven days (returning to earth on June 24th).  Sally was on board with four other crew members, all but one rookies, and together they launched several satellites, and conducted experiments.  It also allowed her to use the arm she helped design. Overall it was a successful mission.

A year later, in 1984, Sally traveled into space again on the Challenger STS-41-G.  This mission lasted for nearly 9 days.  It was also a mission with several firsts.  It was the first time two women had served on the same mission (Sally and Kathryn Sullivan), and it also contained two foreign astronauts.  It was also a crew of seven, the most crew members that the shuttle had held to that point.  An IMAX camera was used to film the flight, and the footage was later used in the film ‘The Dream is Alive’.

Sally’s third mission was scheduled for the summer of 1986, but was cancelled when tragedy struck in January.  On January 28, 1986 the Challenger was launched, but never made it to orbit.  the ship exploded in mid-flight, leading to the deaths of all on board.  For the next two years, missions were scrubbed and a in-depth investigation took place to prevent it from happening again.  Sally was assigned to one of the teams investigating the operations.

After the end of the investigation, Sally was put in charge of putting together an Office of Exploration in DC and making plans for the future of NASA after such a tragedy.  This would be her last assignment for NASA, choosing to go into education afterwards.  However, it was not her last involvement with the agency.

In 1987 she started to work at Stanford as part of the Center for International Security and Arms control, and two years later she became a professor of physics at the University of California in San Diego.  She also became involved with NASA’s outreach programs to educate students and promote science and exploration. This would become a focus of Sally’s public life in the 90s and 2000s.

In 1985, she became involved with the love of her life, Tam O’Shaughnessy.  They had been long time friends, and their romantic relationship was kept private from the general public who didn’t know until after Sally’s death 27 years later.  Sally had been married once before, to fellow astronaut Steve Hawley, but that had ended in divorce in 1987.

Their relationship was also a professional one.  Sally and Tam wrote several children’s science books over the years, and founded the Sally Ride Science organization in 2001 which promoted education and women in STEM occupations.  After Sally’s death, Tam would continue to run the organization.  The organization also ran the Sally Ride Science Festival, an event to promote science.

Sally would also be the president of Space.Com (One of the sources below)

Sally would once again be asked to be part of the investigation of a tragedy, this time the disintegration of the Columbia spacecraft in February 1, 2003.  She was the only person to have served on both investigations.

Sally was private about her personal life, including when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early 2011.  On July 23, 2012 she died in her home in California.

After her death, she received several honors for her space travel and promotion of education and science.  President Barack Obama presented her posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, and during that same year she was honored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  She received the highest honor given by the Space Foundation with General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award.

Perhaps Sally’s most important legacy is the one she has as woman.  Girls, like myself, grew up knowing they could make in space and in the science fields.  She promoted women in the STEM fields, and the education of children in space related sciences.  She also became posthumously a hero for the LGBTIA community.

In May 2018, the US Postal Service will be releasing a stamp in her honor.  This June will be the 35th Anniversary of her first mission into space.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: Sally Ride
Wikipedia: STS-7
Wikipedia: STS-41-G /STS-17
Wikipedia: STS-61-M
Space.Com: Sally Ride
Sally Ride Science @ UC San Diago
NASA Biography: Sally K. Ride
A Brief History of menstruating in space
US Post Office Sally Ride Stamp

 

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Fandom Writing: The Importance of Trigger Warnings

WARNING:  This post mentions several triggering subjects in the course of covering Trigger Warnings.  

There has always been a debate on the use of trigger warnings..  Triggers are words and or images that can trigger adverse reactions in people who have suffered trauma or have various anxiety disorders. It also extends to things that people know, without having the anxiety, that they don’t care to see/here because its just not something they want to digest/handle.  People over the years have developed the idea of ‘Trigger Warnings’ to help people who have issues with these things avoid them, or at least be prepared to handle them if they still continue on.

Trigger warnings are important.  The debate on trigger warnings is that some people believe they are over used, and warning about things a person should be able to handle.  Others believe that not using it is showing a lack of compassion against those who have problems with triggers.  I am in the middle on this argument.  I believe common sense warnings about possible triggers is important and should be done.  However, if someone doesn’t write a trigger for something its not right to say they are not compassionate.  Perhaps it something they are unaware of being a trigger.

The common sense triggers are often built into archives.  Violence, character death, etc.  And it is already common to put tags to express when a fic has sexual content.  Its important to put these messages because not everyone is okay with everything.  Even if its not a trigger, some people simply don’t want to read smut, or want fluff only and no violence.  They might not want to read something descriptive in gore, or deals with a particular event or activity that makes them uncomfortable.

One of the generic ones is gore.  Some people don’t like the sight of blood or any other bodily fluid.  Sometimes its because an particular event, and sometimes it is just something the person knows they don’t like to see.  I used to have trouble remembering to tag these on posts because I wouldn’t think something was gorey, but then I would get messages asking for the tag.

If you are writing something that includes a sensitive topic, its a good idea to tag it, or make a warning in your chapter notes.  While you might not have a problem with it, or feel its important to your story, some people may just need to avoid that for their own personal reasons.   I have known people who refuse to tag stuff like this because they feel it gives the story away, but it would make it so much easier for people to avoid situations where they might be triggered.  It’s a courtesy to your readers. At the vary least it allows those who are picky about what they read the time to decide if your story will be one they choose.  It will also help those who have severe reactions to certain triggers to avoid them.

I think the fact that I have an anxiety disorder myself I understand the trigger system.  I am not triggered by anything written, but I can sympathise with those who are.  Sometimes surprise is not a good thing. So just take a few moments when you post your stories to think if there is anything worth tagging, anything that might trigger anxiety in people.  Things you should tag include sexual violence (including dubious consent), fertility issues (like miscarriage and stillbirth), detailed violence and torture.  Respect requests for added tags as well.

 

Women of History: Saruhashi Katsuko

This week we travel to modern Japan.  Katsuko Saruhashi was a Japanese geochemist and became known for creating the tools to test for Co2 levels in water.  This lead to the discovery of radioactive fallout in the waters around Japan after the 1954 Bikini Atoll nuclear tests.

Katsuko was born on March 22, 1920 in Tokyo, Japan.  As a child she became interested in the dynamics of rain and water, and it would be an interest that would drive her career.  There is not much available from online sources about her childhood, but her career has a lot more out there.

She graduated with a degree in chemistry from the Imperial Women’s College of Science, which would later become Toho University.  She started a career in research at the Meteorological Research Institute.  It had a geochemical laboratory, which she would become the executive director of eventually.

While she started her research, she also continued her studies.  She graduated with a doctorate in 1957 from the University of Tokyo. She made history for the university becoming the first women to graduate with a Doctorate in Chemistry.

Her main study was the carbon dioxide levels in seawater. It was a relatively new area of study, and she was forced to improvise in her methods.  She developed methodologies and tools to be used with the study. Eventually she discovered that sea water has 60% more carbon dioxide then the air above it and gives off twice as much as it absorbs.  Her paper, published in 1955, would serve as the basis of oceanography study for three decades when it came to carbonic acid measurements, and aided to the developing understanding of climate change and global warming.

She became involved in another ocean related study in the late 1950s, when the Japanese government asked the laboratory to conduct tests on the radioactivity of the water surrounding the Bikini Atoll testing site.

In March of 1954, the United States completed “Operation Castle” which was a series of high-yield nuclear tests to develop aircraft viable nuclear weapons.  The sites for this operation were held across several Islands in Marsha Islands, particularly Bikini Atoll where there were 3 test sites. Atolls were islands made from volcanic rock receding leaving a coral reef remains, surrounding a lagoon.  They often appear as small circles of land around a center water area.  Several of reefs above ground become small islands to make up the atoll.

One test, known as Castle Bravo, detonated twice its predicted yields, and ended up contamination several nearby islands, as well as US Soldiers stationed in the area and a Japanese fishing boat known as the Daigo Fukuryu Maru.  One person died as a direct result of the test, but many continued to have health problems.  This brought the test to the Japanese government’s attention.

The tests and research the lab did proved that the fall out of radioactive activity did not simply affect the immediate area of the incident.  The fall out could travel via the ocean and air.   It was the first study of its kind.  They continued to watch the waters till into the 1970s, finding that the radioactive particles from Bikini Atoll had reached the other side of the Pacific Ocean.  This test and those that followed helped the push for a Test Ban Treaty, limiting the fall out of radioactive bomb testing.

However, her results weren’t always trusted.  Several times the fact that she was female, and because she was not an American, her studies were questioned.  However she succeeded to prove her scientific discoveries again and again, earning her the respect she was already due.

In 1979, Katusko was named the executive director of the Geochemical Laboratory.  She continued to investigate water chemistry, focusing on acid rain and its effects.

Over her years as a scientist, she won many awards. She was able to establish the Society of Japanese Women Scientists (1958) to promote women in the sciences.  After her retirement in 1980, she took a gift of 5 million yen and used it to establish an organization looking for the future of women scientists.  It was called the Association for the Bright Future of Women Scientists. In 1981, she established an award in her own name known as the Saruhashi Prize, which was given to a female scientist whose studies are in the natural sciences who has been a good role model for younger women scientists. 37 women have received the award since its inception.  In the further reading section, I’ve included a link to a page on Wikipedia that lists the recipients.  Several have their own pages and it’s a good start to researching women in science in Japan.

Saruhashi Katusko died on September 29, 2007.  Her image appeared this year as a Google Doodle on what would have been her 98th birthday.  She left behind a legacy of science, and of determination to see that other women could achieve the success that she found.

A quote I have found in various sources seems to show her view:

“There are many women who have the ability to become great scientists. I would like to see the day when women can contribute to science & technology on an equal footing with men.”

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: Saruhashi Katsuko

Newsweek: Who was Katsuko Saruhashi?

Wikipedia: Operation Castle

Wikipedia: Bikini Atoll

Wikipedia: Sarahashi Prize

Japanese Femist Debates: A Life Story of Sarauhashi Katsuko – Sumiko Hatakeyama

A to Z of Women in Science in Math – Lisa Yount

 

(writer’s note:  I found that there was a lack of variety of sources for this particular feature with the time I had for researching.  I, like always, suggest doing some research on your own on the women you find interesting.  )

Fandom Writing: Writing the Opposition Badly

One of my pet peeves when reading fan fiction is when a character, usually someone who is the other possible love interest, is villanized to make another character look good or to make a ship seem more plausible.  Not only does it often come with out of character writing for said character, it makes me feel like the person who is writing is not all that sure in the ship they are writing.

You do not have to villainize a character to make your main character, or main ship, look better.  If the character is a villain already, then at least there is canon backing to your character being a villain.

My most recent example of this was in the Arrow fandom.  I am a big fan of Felicity and Laurel, and of Olicity.  However I found way too many fics that villainize Laurel.  Laurel has her own character set-backs, but she is no way a good choice for a villian in an Olicity fic.  And I’ve seen it likewise when people decide that Laurel/Oliver should happen, and make Felicity into a villain or an unhealthily clinging person.  None of it makes sense with the characters we see on-screen, who are in fact friends and strong women.

Another example is found in Doctor Who.  Martha and Rose are alternative villainized depending on the ship choice of the writer.  Honestly if you don’t like a ship, don’t write it.  I’ve found most of the time the ships resolve themselves around each other and you can avoid the other alternative fairly easy without villainizing a character. If you must deal with a ship that you dislike, resolve it between the characters and move on. Most of those reading are most likely already fans of your ship, and you don’t have to prove to them why your choice is better than the alternative.  That is best left to fandom meta essays.

I’ve also seen this with just characters.  Most often female characters, but occasionally male characters.  They will exaggerate bad qualities to the point of OOCness or completely villainize a character to make their favorite look better.  Your favorite character can be awesome all on their own.  That is why they are your favorite.  You don’t have to miswrite a character to make your fave look better. Again, most of your readership most likely already thinks your main character is awesome.

For a good example of how to deal with a love triangle, there is The Hunger Games.  The love triangle in that series is between Katniss, Peeta and Gale.  Peeta and Gale don’t fight each other over her, and both characters are allowed to have flaws and good things about them without comparing to each other.  In the end there is a little comparing when she finally makes a decision, but for the most part all three characters are allowed to exist on the same side.  Neither is completely villainized either.

My suggestion is if you really don’t like a character, have them take a trip, or be otherwise out of the picture of the story you are writing.  If you feel you can write the character well, and not villainize for the sake of making them look bad, go ahead and write them.  Take a look at canon.  Be honest with yourself as to why you are writing the character the way you are.

If you are just writing angry fic about a character you hate, label it as such so fans of the character know to avoid it.  And people who may hate the character but prefer to stick to canon can know that going in. For example, bringing back the Arrow fandom, I have seen people post “Anti-Felicity” or “Anti-Laurel” as a tag, letting me know that their story is not favorable to that character.  So I can avoid those stories.

Even in original writing, take a moment and think about the different features of the character.  Are you writing a well-rounded character or are you just focusing on bad parts so its clear they are the wrong choice?  Are you trying to make a compelling villain or just make your other characters look better?

Consider your characters and your readers before writing a character simply to be the anti-choice.

Women of History: Sor Juana de la Cruz

Author’s note:  I apologise for the lack of Spanish punctuation.  I haven’t quite figured out the character settings on this blog to do them.

This week we travel to Mexico during the 1600s. Our featured lady of history is Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (Sister Juana Ines of the Cross), a 17th century nun who was an early feminist and poet

Sor Juana Ines was born Juana Ines de Asbaje y Ramriz de Santillana on November 12, 1651 (or possibly 1648). She was born in San Miquel Napantla, a town located in the southern half of Modern Mexico. At the time however, it was known as New Spain, still a colony of Spain. Her hometown was later renamed in her honor as Napantla de Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz) Continue reading

Women of History: Kim Seondeok

Author’s Note:  This post is posted late due to some editing process issues.  The next post will be posted tomorrow on schedule.

This week we travel to Korea, during the 7th Century. Our featured Women of History is Queen Seondeok of Silla, a kingdom of Korea.

Seondeok was born Princess Deokmen, the daughter of King Jinpyeong and Queen Maya. Her birthdate is not a sure fact, but it is suspected to be at the very end of the 6th century to early end of the 7th century. She had two sisters, Princess Cheonmyeong and Seonhwa. At this point in their kingdom’s history, there had not been a female ruler of the kingdom. Women were involved in governing and held roles of power but it was limited. Her grandmother, Queen Sado, had once ruled as regent for her grandfather for example. Yet no women had been Queen Regnant (Queen in her own right, rather than representing someone else).

When the time came for Jinpyeong to choose a successor, he leaned towards his son-in-law Kim Yongsu. Yongsu was married to Cheonmyeong. He was the second cousin of the King, and thus a member of the bone rank of Seonggol (Sacred Bone).

The bone rank system was based on lineage, and was very rigid in nature. A person’s status or rank would determine everyday life. This included a person’s occupation and sometimes even clothing choices. There were three main ranks. Seonggol was the highest and included the royal family. Lesser royals and ministers were part of the Jingol (true bone) rank. The lowest rank was the head rank (Tupum) and included most of the rest of the population. Tupum divided into 6 subclasses. The lower 3 classes were that of the lower class. The Aristocracy were the higher 3 classes. One’s rank determined your place in society. It determined who you could socialize with, who you could marry and what type of housing you got. Higher ranks had clothing restrictions as well. Seondeok herself was a member of the Seonggol rank as had all the royals at this point.

Yongsu seemed an acceptable heir to a man with no sons. Seondeok had taken an interest in governing and had asked her father to prove herself. Jinpyeong decided to give her the opportunity. Seondeok proved herself, but she was still not without detractors. Despite Yongsu conceding and even taking the lower rank of jingol, it was not an easy transition. A rebellion against her was thorted before it beg

In 632, Seondeok was given the crown and the name change, becoming the first female ruler of Silla on her own right. She immediately got to work, with grand plans for her people and her country. She sent out inspectors to oversee the people’s welfare and gave tax breaks for the peasant class. She built Cheomseongdae, one of the oldest astronomy towers. She also sent yearly emissaries to Tang China to improve foreign relations. Emperor Taizang Tang would not recognise her, believeing women were ineffective rulers. It would be three years before he would change his mind.

Seondeok’s interest in foreign affairs was an important part of her legacy. Through alliances and strategy, she expanded the borders of her Kingdom. Her kingdom would one day cover a good deal of the Korean Peninsula.

At the start of her reign, Silla was located in the southeast corner of South Korea. The capital of Silla was Gyeongju, which is located not too far inland from the coast.. Over the course of her reign, as well as that of her successors, the boundaries of Silla morphed and changed. It would go from a small confederation at the southern half of Korea to ruling most of it.

The kingdom of Baekje invaded the country in 642, ten years into Seondeok’s reign. At first they were successful, capturing cities and castles on the western border. Seondeok sought the advice of a buddhist monk named Jajang about what to do to protect her people. She took his advice and created a pagoda called Hwangnyongsa along the border. She even offered to use the materials of her own palace if it would help calm the fears of her countrymen. It was to be both a religious center as well as a military post to watch for invaders. The pagoda was nine stories, meant to represent her ‘enemies’ with various depictions. Unfortunately the pagoda was burned down by invaders in 1238.

It was only the growing power of Goguryeo, the third Kingdom of Korea, that caused Emperor Tiazong to change his mind. This alliance was enough to help her forces drive back the forces of Baekje (which became a part of Silla) and Goguryeo(who lost territory to Silla). Silla held a good deal of the territory of Korea and eventually even separated their alliance with Tiazong. This would be an ongoing problem during her reign as the borders shifted back and forth between the warring kingdoms.

Yet, it was not to be easy for Queen Seondeok even domestically. In 647, she fell ill. Her official Bidam used this as an opportunity to raise a rebellion. He was popular with his countrymen, and many rallied to be behind him. He used their belief in signs to promote the idea that Queen Seondeok was a failure as a Queen. After all, her illness, and a failing star aimed in the direction of her home were signs of failure.

The rebellion lasted ten days, but Seondeok did not live to see the end of the rebellion. She died on February 17th, 647. She had no heirs, so her cousin Kim Seungman became Queen. She renamed herself Jindeok and completed the final suppression of the rebellion. Jindeok continued to improve the country and work towards unification.

King Muyeol, who was born Kim Chunchu, suceeded Jindeok who had died without an heir as well. He was the son of Seondeok’s sister Cheonmyeong and Kim Yongsu. Jindeok was the last of the Seonggol rulers, ending the rank. It would be Muyeol’s son King Munmu who would complete the unification of Korea.

Queen Seondeck’s legacy is not only the expansion of the borders of Silla and the military protection of her country. She started the alliance with Tang China, which would be strengthened during the reigns of her successors. She also strengthened the country’s connection to Buddhism, which had already been the national religion. She built many temples, statues and pagodas to that effect, some of which still stand. She also built Cheomseongdae, which remains one of the oldest observatories in the world. This inspired her neighbors to build their own observatories. She promoted interest in the sciences and education. She created public works and aid for those who needed it.

Some of her life has become legend – or legends have replaced some of her life. She was thought to have some sense of clairvoyance. One story tells of Seondeok receiving some Poppy seeds from the Emperor of China. It was accompanied by a picture showing what the flower would look like upon blooming. She stated that the flowers would have no fragrance. When the blooms finally came, no one could detect a fragrance. In some versions of the story, it is passed off as Seondeok’s clairvoyance. In others, she later explains she saw no bees or butterflies near it, so she had made a deductive conclusion.

The amount of legends involved in her life make it hard to do generic research on her. Since I only have a week to work on these, I tend to focus on internet sources. I always try to find multiple sources for anything I write. I was also limited because I only speak English fluently. However, I believe a lot of the scholarship on Queen Seondeok is still in paper form. I recommend researching more into her if you are interested.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: The Kingdom of Silla

Wikipedia: Cheomseongdae

Traditional East Asia: Queen Seondeok of Silla

The Ancient Encyclopedia: Seondeok

The Ancient Encyclopedia: The Bone Rank System

Thought Co: Queen Seondeok of the Silla Kingdom

History of Royal Women: The Three Queens of Silla

 

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