Fighting For Space: Two Pilots and Their Historical Battle For Female Spaceflight by Amy Sheira Teitel
I’ve been listening to books lately…a new skill I am developing on my “sanity” walks. The trick for me is to listen while in motion so I am not lulled by a narrator’s voice. Fighting for Space piqued my interest as a dual biography of Jackie Cochran and Jerrie Cobb, two pilots instrumental in advancing the “women astronaut” program. Teitel’s book profiles both Cochran and Cobb and describes the political and social climate during their careers. With limited knowledge of these two iconic pilots and their battle to become astronauts, and then to advance the opportunities for women in the space program, I put in my ear buds and began to listen.
The reader meets Jackie Cochran first, in her childhood in the Florida Panhandle. Her life there was similar to her neighbors, albeit with food on the table and most of the children working in the local saw mill. At 8, her family moved to Georgia to work in the cotton mills. Jackie had little formal education, which she was always self conscious about, but much determination. She ended up marrying at 14, becoming a hair dresser, divorcing and losing her young son in a fire. Despite all this, she developed a very successful cosmetic company. At this point, I wondered if I had the right title…was Jackie Cochran really going to become a pilot? She does! Jackie becomes a pilot in three short weeks, and begins entering flying competitions, most notably, the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race. The hook for flying is deep, and her accomplishments and records just beginning.
Jerrie Cobb, 25 years Cochran’s junior, grew up in Okahoma, earning her pilot’s license at age 16, and playing professional women’s softball to earn money to fly. She met Jack Ford in Florida, and he hired her to help fly planes to Peru. Her career and records took off from there.
What is also fascinating about Fighting for Space is when these pilots set their sights on NASA and the space program. Teital talks about all of the testing and training and networking these women embrace, as well as the Congressional hearings and political maneuverings to advance opportunities for women in space. Their grit and determination is inspiring, especially after hearing about how hard they fought to get to the table. I appreciated the depictions of astronauts like John Glenn and the other Mercury Seven, Lyndon B. Johnson, and other politicians.
Teital is a good narrator, easy to listen to with a voice that lends itself to the story. She is obviously passionate about her topic, but I suggest she isn’t as biased as one might expect. She leaves those calls to the reader. While I highly recommend the “listen,” check out the physical book or download the PDF from Audible to view the correspondence and pictures. They are fantastic!