The riveting true story of the women who launched America into space.
In the 1940s and '50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn't turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible.
For the first time, Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women - known as "human computers" - who broke the boundaries of both gender and science. Based on extensive research and interviews with all the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science: both where we've been and the far reaches of space to which we're heading.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2016 Nathalia Holt (P)2016 Hachette Audio
"Engaging history...a fresh contribution to women's history." (Kirkus)
"The immediacy of Holt's writing makes readers feel as if they're alongside the women during their first view of Jupiter, and beyond." (Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal)
"I stole sleep to finish this book and was happy to do so. I admire how Holt gives voice to a group of important (and lesser-known) female scientists who have in the past been overshadowed by their male counterparts. The domestic and the scientific are elegantly rendered - it is an impressive contribution to American history and I was sad to turn the last page." (TaraShea Nesbit, best-selling author of The Wives of Los Alamos)
There is an interesting article available on-line from theatlantic.com titled How Sexism Held Back Space Exploration. There is a photo of Helen Ling, one of the women "computers" from this book and Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in the article. It is a fascinating look at the same story told here but from a different angle. To me, the article captures the feeling of frustration I had as I listened to the book. I have to be honest, I was disturbed by the degree of sexism presented in the book and by how it was not handled directly. Instead, it was almost spun into a simple tale of smart plucky women breaking the mold.
Be aware, this is not a complete history of NASA or the space program. Instead, Holt kept her focus directly on the lives of the women, their struggles juggling marriage, home, family and work. It was clear how devoted and captivated the women were by the work the did at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the parts they played in furthering space exploration. I just felt frustrated and angry on their behalf.
This was an interesting, if at times thin look at the lives of a subset of women from 1936 through the current day. There are numerous sites on-line with old photos and background information that are worth a look. Do read the article mentioned above. It helps to expand the story and adds depth to the book.
Why isn't THIS in our history books? They did so much for humankind's space exploration. Thank you!
An insightful history of what women can accomplish, when they have a seat at the table. One of the most cognizant points I took away is that women's scientific achievements during this period in history was dependent on having support, a manager that looked to encourage a feminine presence, willingness to hire (or hire back) women that had young children at home, and extended flexibility to its employees. Truly an amazing accounting of the history of space exploration from its humble beginnings, through the lens of an often underrepresented largest minority.
Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always."
This book is fantastic. It has history, science, sociology, business, and inspiration all rolled into one compelling listen. I just wish I could buy every kid in Southern California a copy.
"Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon" (2016) ranges from Southern California legends and lore to the global story of human space exploration - and women's history. The book celebrates the quiet and until now unsung heroines who were 'leaning in' ("Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead" (2013) Sheryl Sandberg) long before Betty Friedan identified the general malaise of the middle class housewife in "The Feminine Mystique" (1963). As Nathalia Holt writes about one of the women she profiled, before the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "She was snarled in the limits of being born a woman."
There's that old chestnut about the computing power that got us to the moon being about the same as a pocket calculator, but that's not true. The computing power was the best and the brightest women, cloistered at the top of the Arroyo Seco, working long hours - and going home to make dinner and take care of children, a second full time job.
I kept thinking of how far things have come in some ways. There aren't "Miss Guided Missile" contests at the office, and women aren't fired for getting pregnant - but maybe not in others. I worry that even now, women aren't getting paid the same up at NASA's JPL (when you live in the San Gabriel Valley, JPL is always "up") even if they are doing the same job as men.
The rocket science is explained so clearly that I finally understand the concepts, nearly 50 years after I watched the Apollo 11 moon landing while sitting cross legged on a green shag carpet in front of a huge black and white console television. I haven't been obsessing over it for almost half a century, but I really didn't understand how a solid rocket booster was until now.
By the end of the book, I felt that I'd gotten to know the brilliant women profiled in "Rise of the Rocket Girls" so well that I was sad. I felt like I do at the end of a long and happy visit with family or friends - I wished that it could last longer.
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I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
there's a room full of brilliant women! Who knew?
This was the first time I'd ever heard about these smart women and what they did to make space exploration possible in the 50s and 60s. I've always wondered what really bright women did "back in the day" when so few opportunities were available to them. Now I know where some of the brilliant mathematicians landed. Their intellectual capacity, camaraderie and dedication to a purpose is awe inspiring. I can't believe we've never honored their contribution to our nation's history and the space program.
Because of another Audible listener and her terrific reviews, I became aware of this book. (Thanks, Gillian!) I agree with her assessment and rave review. This book is well researched and written. The narration doesn't really add anything, but doesn't get in the way. It held my interest from beginning to end and sent me scurrying to find out more.
I'm a little disappointed this book wasn't better written. These women's stories are so interesting, but the author took this really cold approach to writing them and then the clumsily peppered in humanizing moments just felt really flat and awkward. I don't think I'd recommend this one.
SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!
This book really reminded me of my sister: this is about women who can find the design of the Universe in a flower, in the mathematics involved in each of these. These women are the dreamiest kind of artists, and are brilliant!
From the first woman hooking up with The Suicide Squad (who will become the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory) through to the longest serving woman member of NASA, "Rise of the Rocket Girls" follows each computer... she who computes... on her journey through changing science, through the changes within our societal structure. I couldn't devour this audiobook fast enough, and I'm listening to it again.
While the science of it can be thorough and daunting, it's so well-written that even I, a different kind of dreamy artist, could follow well enough and could be inspired. It made looking up at the heavens a whole new kind of fun.
Erin Bennett's narration can be a bit officious at times, shows just the tiniest lack of emotion that makes it the tiniest short of a 5-star merit, but she does a great job and doesn't go overboard on the vocal variations in an attempt to make each woman unique. The women are who they are, and their words and lives speak for themselves.
Now if you'll excuse me, as I'm listening to this again, I have to go back to it. I'm at The Sixties, and that was a helluva time for space exploration!
This was a very interesting book. It is an amazing story of a group of hard working women who were pioneers in what was generally considered a man's profession. Their dedication, intelligence and work ethic, at a time in history when women generally did not work outside the house, was remarkable. I would highly recommend it.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I have heard about these women at JPL for years and am so glad to have the opportunity to learn more about them. The Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) started in the 1930s by a group of male rocket engineers on the campus of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. A group of woman called human computers was responsible for the math involved. The women had degrees in math, physics, chemistry and engineering but were having trouble finding a job after graduation until JPL hired them in the 1940 and 50s.
Holt provides the reader a look into the lives of these remarkable women as well as the history of rocket science. Remember all the math was done by hand in the days before computers. The book is easy to read and full of fascinating details about discoveries that these women made. I noted that the women continued their education via Caltech courses going on to obtain advance degrees in engineering and computer science. They embraced the early IBM computers and learned to program them learning FORTRAN and other coding languages, they also participated as authors in the published scientific reports. When NASA started dissolving the human computers the women at JPL were just reclassified as engineers and continued working. Of course they did not receive the same pay.
In 1958 JPL became part of the new agency called NASA. JPL is managed for NASA by Caltech since 1958 and all JPLers are Caltech employees. I noted Holt stated more women work today as scientist and engineers at JPL than any other NASA Center. Holt also said women have more opportunities in science and engineering at JPL than any other public or private facility, primarily due to the high standard of work by women in this story. Erin Bennett does a good job narrating the book. This is a must read for all young women.
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