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TWU Home > Marketing & Communication > News Releases

Women of Mercury 13 Topic of TWU’s Women in Aviation Symposium Oct. 7


DENTON — They dreamed of becoming astronauts. They passed all the physical and psychological tests. Yet, they were denied the opportunity to go into space for one reason – they were women.

Known as the Mercury 13, the experience of these women pilots in 1961 is the focus of Texas Woman’s University’s Second Biennial Women in Aviation Symposium Oct. 7.

“Shooting Stars, The Women of Mercury 13” features a panel discussion with four of the Mercury 13 – Wally Funk, Irene Leverton and Jerri Truhill. Margaret Weitekamp, curator of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and author of “Right Stuff, Wrong Sex: America’s First Women in Space Program,” will moderate the panel discussion with book signings and a luncheon to follow.

The symposium will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 7 in the MCL auditorium located on Bell Avenue on TWU’s Denton campus. Admission for the panel discussion is free and no reservations are required. However, tickets for the luncheon must be purchased in advance by calling (940) 898-2133. The luncheon begins at noon and costs $25 per person, $15 for students. More information about the symposium can be found at www.twu.edu.

TWU’s Department of History and Government and the Friends of the TWU Libraries are sponsoring the symposium.

In 1961, 13 top female aviators of their era participated in the same tests that determined America’s first astronauts – the Mercury 7. Despite outstanding test results that matched, or in some cases surpassed the men’s, the Mercury 13 were denied the opportunity to participate in the U.S. space program because of their gender.

The men of Mercury 7, including John Glenn and Alan Shepard, went on to become American heroes, garnering tremendous media coverage and inspiring the movie “The Right Stuff.” Their female counterparts of the Mercury 13 went back to their lives in relative obscurity and have only recently been in the spotlight, serving as the subjects of many books, including Weitekamp’s, and as the subject of a “Dateline NBC” story in February 1995. That same month, 34 years after they were denied participation in the U.S. space program, seven of the Mercury 13 witnessed America’s first female pilot astronaut, Lt. Eileen Collins, launch the shuttle at Cape Kennedy.

TWU’s Woman’s Collection documents milestones in the history of American women through its collection of letters, diaries, photographs, manuscripts and books. Established in 1932, the collection represents the best concentration of resources on U.S. women in the Southwest and includes an archive of Women in Aviation and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) and Whirly-Girl collections. More information about TWU’s Woman’s Collection can be found at www.twu.edu/library/woman/.


For Further Information Contact:

Amanda McKeen Simpson
Director of News and Information
Tel: (940) 898-3456
e-mail: asimpson1@twu.edu

Page last updated January 22, 2009

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