Ackmann, Martha (A.) 1951-

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ACKMANN, Martha (A.) 1951-


Born February 11, 1951, in MO; father worked for Department of Defense in mapmaking. Education: Lindenwood College, B.A.; Middlebury College, M.A.; University of Massachusetts, Ph.D.; attended Oxford University.


Office—Porter Hall, Room 122, Mount Holyoke College, 50 College St., South Hadley, MA 01075-1426; fax: 413-538-2082. E-mail—[email protected].


Educator, journalist, and author. Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA, lecturer in women's studies, 1987—, director of Community-Based Learning Program, Weissman Center for Leadership. Founding editor, LEGACY: A Journal of American Women Writers, University of Nebraska Press.


Corecipient of the Amelia Ear-hart Research Scholars Grant, the Ninety-Nines.


The Mercury Thirteen: The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and


Martha Ackmann is an educator and author whose writings range from the discrepancy in prize money awarded to male versus female Wimbledon champions to President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. She has also written extensively about the poet Emily Dickinson for an academic audience. In a Library Journal review of her first book, The Mercury Thirteen: The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight, Jeffrey Beall referred to the work as "a feminist perspective on the space program." The book recounts the little-known tale of the women who tested during the early 1960s in hopes of becoming astronauts. In 1961 Randolph Lovelace II, head of NASA's Life Sciences Committee, gathered the nation's best female pilots in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to determine if women were capable of handling the rigors of space travel. These pilots underwent the same grueling physical and psychological exams as their male counterparts. The women's results were equal to those of the men, and in some cases even superior. However, when it came time for flight simulations and further training at the U.S. Naval School of Aviation Medicine in Pensacola, Florida, NASA pulled the plug on Lovelace's experiment, denying the women advancement into the astronaut program. The decision led to the United States forfeiting its chance to launch the first woman into space, an honor that went to the Russians in 1963, twenty years ahead of American astronaut Sally Ride. While noting the difficulty in wading through the large amount of details, Alice Kessler-Harris from Women's Review of Books pointed out that Ackmann relates how many of the women involved with the program ultimately realized that "NASA's dismissal of the women was part of a larger system of social bias that restricted women's opportunity in nearly every aspect of American life." Booklist contributor Carol Haggas agreed stating that The Mercury Thirteen "delivers both a stinging indictment of an intolerant society and a stirring endorsement of women whose valor and dedication remain inspirational."



American Scientist, January-February, 2004, Volume 92, issue 1, Kathryn D. Sullivan, "Ad Astra per Aspera," p. 74.

Astronomy, December, 2003, Volume 31, issue 12, Mae Jemison, "The Right Stuff," p. 102.

Booklist, June 1, 2003, Carol Haggas, review of The Mercury Thirteen: The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight, p. 1733.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2003, review of The Mercury Thirteen, p. 513.

Library Journal, June 1, 2003, Jeffrey Beall, review of The Mercury Thirteen, p. 158.

Miami Herald, June 25, 2003, Anne Bartlett, review of The Mercury Thirteen.

Newsday, July 6, 2003, Wendy Smith, "Reaching for the Stars," p. 30.

Publishers Weekly, April 21, 2003, Natalie Danford, "Babes in NASA-land: PW Talks with Martha Ackmann," p. 46; review of The Mercury Thirteen, p. 46.

School Library Journal, November, 2003, Christine C. Menefee, review of The Mercury Thirteen, p. 172.

Time, June 2, 2003, Lev Grossman, "Barred from Heaven," p. 32.

Times (Seattle), August 25, 2003, "In the Space Program's Infancy, Thirteen Female Pilots Were Grounded by Sexism."

USA Today, June 26, 2003, "Mercury Boldly Goes into Forgotten History," p. 6.

Women's Review of Books, July, 2003, Volume 20, issue 10/11, Alice Kessler-Harris, "Into the Blue."


Mount Holyoke Web site, (November 7, 2003), faculty profile.

Philadelphia City Paper Web site, (November 7, 2003), A. D. Amorosi, review of The Mercury Thirteen.

Racerchicks Web site, (November 7, 2003), review of The Mercury Thirteen.


"Interview: Martha Ackmann Discusses Her New Book 'The Mercury Thirteen'" (radio interview), All Things Considered, National Public Radio, June 17, 2003.

"Mercury Thirteen Project Helped Pave the Way for Female Astronauts" (government custom wire), Military and Government Collection, April 8, 2004.*