Mae Jemison faced and witnessed plenty of judgement growing up in a late 1960’s environment.
Wives were expected to care for children and do the housekeeping, which lead to an average 55 hours of chores per week per woman. Women everywhere were entering into the paid workforce because they wanted to make names for themselves. I believe this inspired Jemison to follow her heart by enjoying and reading science, particularly astronomy. 38% of women who worked were teachers, secretaries, or nurses. Female workers seeking a professional occupation were almost always deemed as unwelcome, but Jemison was determined to carve her own path by pursuing her childhood dream of being an astronaut. She remembers, “In kindergarten, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her, ‘A scientist!’ She said, ‘Don’t you mean a nurse?’ Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a nurse, but that’s not what I wanted to be.” Mae Jemison achieved her goals through determination.
She worked hard in school, and you could always find her in the library avidly reading. Her parents supported her brilliance and talent in everything she did. Their support was vital, because in the ’60’s, women were working in a home, especially women of color.
At Morgan Park High School, she decided to pursue a career in biomedical engineering, or, the application of engineering principles to medicine and healthcare. During her years in high school, she was a consistent honor student. She graduated in 1973, going into Stanford University on a National Achievement Scholarship. After completing college with a bachelor’s degree in science, she entered into Cornell University Medical College. There, she secured her M.D.
(1981.) After a few years of being in the Peace Corps in Liberia and Sierra Leone, Africa, she decided to come back to the United States of America. Little did she know, her life was going to change forever.
Coming back from Liberia, Jemison made the choice to finally pursue her aspiration of becoming an astronaut. She applied for NASA’s astronaut training program in 1985. Unfortunately, due to the Challenger catastrophe in 1986, the application selection was delayed. Picture this: NASA is all ready to send a shuttle, named the Challenger, to outer space. Then, the unthinkable happens. Just 73 seconds after liftoff, the shuttle exploded, killing all seven passengers inside the craft. Due to this disastrous event, Mae Jemison had to resubmit her application a year later. Out of 2,000 applicants, she was one of 15 to receive the good news on June 4, 1987: she had been accepted into the training program.
From then on, she began making history as the first black woman to participate in the training. Following a year of schooling at Johnson City, Texas, she became the first African-American female astronaut. Dr. Jemison was the science mission specialist on STS-47. The cooperative mission, also known as the Endeavor mission, was between the U.
S and Japan and consisted of Dr. Jemison accompanied by six other astronauts. “The eight-day mission was accomplished in 127 orbits of the Earth, and included 44 Japanese and U.S. life science and materials processing experiments.” Dr. Jemison spent 190 hours, 30 minutes, and 23 seconds in space during her first space flight.
She launched and landed at the Kennedy Space Center located in Florida. Jemison left NASA in March 1993. She went on to become a teacher at Dartmouth.
As you can imagine, Dr. Mae Jemison is a recipient of many accolades. Mae Jemison received the Essence Science and Technology Award. (1988) Then, she was named Gamma Sigma Gamma Woman of the Year. (1989) Next, she won the honorary doctorate of science, Lincoln College PA.
(1991) She also won McCall’s 10 Outstanding Women for the 90’s. Mae Jemison later got the Johnson Publications Black Achievement Trailblazers Award. (1992) Another award she received is the Mae C. Jemison Science and Space Museum, Wright Jr. College, Chicago Award.
(1992) Mae Jemison received Ebony’s 50 Most Influential Women. (1993) In the same year, she was awarded the Turner Trumpet Award. (1993) The Kilby Science Award came after that.
(1993) Dr. Jemison has accomplished so much. She inspires me to work and try hard in not just school, but everything I attempt in life. Becoming an astronaut and not fulfilling the “typical” requirements for a woman must have been extremely challenging.