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Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars

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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, transfo 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.


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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, transfo 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.

30 review for Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars

  1. 5 out of 5

    A.J. Fitzwater

    I could not finish this book. I read 1/3 then skimmed the rest. The history is put in such a sexist framework, I felt I was reading creative non-fiction, a script for a movie, or a historical fiction retelling. The focus on the women's attractiveness, romantic affairs, and having babies was not at all appropriate to their scientific contribution and ground breaking achievements in a time when women were excluded from scientific endeavour and the work force. If the book had intended to interrogate I could not finish this book. I read 1/3 then skimmed the rest. The history is put in such a sexist framework, I felt I was reading creative non-fiction, a script for a movie, or a historical fiction retelling. The focus on the women's attractiveness, romantic affairs, and having babies was not at all appropriate to their scientific contribution and ground breaking achievements in a time when women were excluded from scientific endeavour and the work force. If the book had intended to interrogate the trials of juggling work and family life during political and scientific upheaval, it failed miserably as there was much hand waving towards women's political and legal justice shift. The book fell into a distracting repetition of talking about the women in very dramatic, emotional language for a paragraph or two, then spent pages on dry facts and lauding the men of JPL, often leaving the women out of the experiments. As this was a work place problem, the political implications should have been discussed, but they never were. Similarly, any work place sexual harassment was hand waved and laughed away, as well as being fired for pregnancy - the narrative put the burden upon the women instead of interrogating the problems within the system. What was of interest, the work and massive contribution the women scientists did, was rendered down into very pithy descriptions. The feminist contributions the women did undertake were presented in very "Lean In" style, putting no onus on the company itself (childcare? maternal care? community? All created by the women themselves, and did not seem supported by men or the company, yet this was never interrogated). The descriptions of the women, their figures, and clothes were incredibly distracting and sexist, and seemed framed to assure a more conservative reader that "It's okay lads! They may have sent us into outer space, but they were sexy and popped out babies while they did it, never fear!" I'd give this a half star if I could. The author had no grounding in the feminist/political movements of the time or the hard political yards undertaken by women in these environments.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bethany Fair

    I wish I could give this 2.5 stars. While I enjoyed the author's intentions and much of the history, Holt is a lackluster storyteller at best with a tendency to portray her "rocket girls" as giddy, impressionable preteens who are more concerned with "correcting their wind-blown girlish hair" than they are with representing themselves as agents of their own careers. Every shallow description of "Barbara's slim A-line skirt" belies the seriousness with which she hopes the readers will perceive the I wish I could give this 2.5 stars. While I enjoyed the author's intentions and much of the history, Holt is a lackluster storyteller at best with a tendency to portray her "rocket girls" as giddy, impressionable preteens who are more concerned with "correcting their wind-blown girlish hair" than they are with representing themselves as agents of their own careers. Every shallow description of "Barbara's slim A-line skirt" belies the seriousness with which she hopes the readers will perceive the brilliance and determination of the first women rocket scientists. Why does the author spend so much time undermining her own intentions with superfluous physical descriptions, such as when she stupidly points out that Barbara was "gaining a lot of weight" because she was too busy at JPL to eat anything but croissants and milkshakes. Who gives a shit? I do give it 2.5 stars because I do appreciate her methodology and use of oral history as a primary source. Many of the stories were interesting, but she should have given her heroines more agency and respect.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This is a fascinating look into the lives of the women who have worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory from its inception in the 1940s until today. Despite my interest in NASA and the history of space program, I didn't know much about JPL and was blown away by the stories of the women who were doing such important work at a time when women were not encouraged to have careers at all, much less careers in science. I also thought it was really interesting to learn about how things worked in the in This is a fascinating look into the lives of the women who have worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory from its inception in the 1940s until today. Despite my interest in NASA and the history of space program, I didn't know much about JPL and was blown away by the stories of the women who were doing such important work at a time when women were not encouraged to have careers at all, much less careers in science. I also thought it was really interesting to learn about how things worked in the initial development of satellites and rockets. It's incredible that all the math was done by hand in those days, and amazing that it was primarily women who were doing the calculations considering the attitude society had about women in science at the time. Nathalia Holt does a wonderful job of weaving the individual women's stories with the details of JPL and the work they were doing there. It makes for a fascinating book that provides a lot of fun information with a human interest element as well.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zora

    I think the author misunderstood her audience's interest in looks and clothes. The Nancy Drew style of writing put me off, the book wasn't particularly well organized, and I did a lot of skimming of the last 2/3. An important story that should be told. But perhaps by a different author. I think the author misunderstood her audience's interest in looks and clothes. The Nancy Drew style of writing put me off, the book wasn't particularly well organized, and I did a lot of skimming of the last 2/3. An important story that should be told. But perhaps by a different author.

  5. 5 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    'Rise of the Rocket Girls' is an excellent read, as well as a well-researched and organized history of the involvement of women 'computers' working for the Jet Propulsion Lab. Nathalia Holt's book left me feeling happy. World War II ushered in a new desire from all combatants for improved weapons of war. All involved governments spent as much money as they could on stocking up on weapons. Missile development was in its infancy before the war had started, but of course, once the war began in earne 'Rise of the Rocket Girls' is an excellent read, as well as a well-researched and organized history of the involvement of women 'computers' working for the Jet Propulsion Lab. Nathalia Holt's book left me feeling happy. World War II ushered in a new desire from all combatants for improved weapons of war. All involved governments spent as much money as they could on stocking up on weapons. Missile development was in its infancy before the war had started, but of course, once the war began in earnest, everybody realized what a great weapon a missile would be, especially for the government that first solved the dual problems of launching them and of aiming them accurately at a target once launched. Private hobbyists, universities and governments were sporadically working on missile technology. Even after the war started they had not yet become a cohesive group. Separately at first, groups of scientists and engineers, sometimes simply friends who decided to work together, searched for abandoned warehouses, factories and airfields to do research into building missiles. As their work was literally explosive, they needed places far from human habitats. Some of the men - they were all men initially working more and more officially for the government and for the private companies who formed research laboratories - had girlfriends who also became interested in the work. Luckily for history, a few of the women had been born with the maths gene and so had studied math as a hobby. Not many universities allowed women to enroll in math classes, but a few did. Some women had had fathers who indulged their daughters' interest in math, too. In time, in these early days, a few of the women became accepted as auxiliary members of the teams working on missile development. As certain women rose to leadership roles in the newly formed math calculation department at the Jet Propulsion Lab - women were the best at the work - they began the work on the maths necessary to shoot rockets accurately. These women became known as the computers. Just as designing missiles was all by hand, so was figuring out trajectories. Eventually, machines would take over the work of solving mathematical equations, and these machines would take on the name by which the women's math department had been called - Computers. Eventually, the work changed from missile trajectories to working out how to fly rockets to Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Uranus. Later, the work became how to direct rockets to land a man on the Moon. None of these women hired as computers had engineering degrees (many colleges had rules forbidding women to study engineering), so they were left out a lot by upper management in certain meetings and in being respected. However, lower ranking departmental employees had to be much more involved together in consultation and in the work, so respect slowly grew. The women's salaries was a third to half of what the men earned, although they were doing either the same work or work which was essential to getting rockets off the ground and to landing where they needed to be. And like career women today, they struggled with the events of marriages and child care interfering with their jobs. However, unlike most women today, they were forced to resign after a baby was born, career over. Sigh. The story of the rocket girls is generally a happy one, though. The author explains how the women helped NASA put people and rovers and satellites into space, describing how women were involved from the 1940's to today. She does so through interesting biographies of the women and an easy to understand history of rocket development (no maths for the reader to struggle with). Some of the spectacular successes and failures of rocket history are explained, including information I did not know before. In the back of the book are extensive notes and an index. I highly recommend 'Rise of the Rocket Girls'!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Audiobook narrated by Erin Bennett 9h 45 min 49 seconds Decided to abandon (at 3hours 21 minutes) for two reasons; First, it was incredibly researched, but too much backstories. Second, the narrator read off the chapters (1-6) very robotically. Conclusion: Good intentions but it just wasn't for me. Audiobook narrated by Erin Bennett 9h 45 min 49 seconds Decided to abandon (at 3hours 21 minutes) for two reasons; First, it was incredibly researched, but too much backstories. Second, the narrator read off the chapters (1-6) very robotically. Conclusion: Good intentions but it just wasn't for me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Yuki

    Sitting at her desk... [Barbara] ran a finger over her pantyhose. ... The garter belt was uncomfortable, often digging into a woman's stomach and legs. Pantyhose came about in the late 1950s when Ethel Boone Gant had had enough. ... While Barbara didn't intend to start wearing miniskirts, there was a new style she wanted to try. ... While trying out their new fashion-forward outfits, they were also debugging programs. A computer bug was a problem in the code. The term had been coined by Thomas Edis Sitting at her desk... [Barbara] ran a finger over her pantyhose. ... The garter belt was uncomfortable, often digging into a woman's stomach and legs. Pantyhose came about in the late 1950s when Ethel Boone Gant had had enough. ... While Barbara didn't intend to start wearing miniskirts, there was a new style she wanted to try. ... While trying out their new fashion-forward outfits, they were also debugging programs. A computer bug was a problem in the code. The term had been coined by Thomas Edison and then popularized by navy rear admiral Grace Hopper... From space missions and pantyhose to pantsuits and computer bugs, then a roundtrip to marriage and space missions? Has strong potential to be an eye-opener for women's role in NASA, but instead turns superficial in attempts to cover too much information. 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm1858

    Super fascinating topic to highlight these amazing women; unfortunately I didn't super love the writing style and slogged through this. Super fascinating topic to highlight these amazing women; unfortunately I didn't super love the writing style and slogged through this.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I've had this one for a while and finally decided to tackle it. I was a little hesitant because it had the potential of being dry, since I'm so not a science geek. But I completely enjoyed this. It was a wonderful read. The women in this book were such great examples not only to all women, but also to the men in their world. This book covers a group of women who were hired by the Jet Propulsion Lab as number crunchers. IBM kept coming up with ginormous calculators to do the math, but they were ne I've had this one for a while and finally decided to tackle it. I was a little hesitant because it had the potential of being dry, since I'm so not a science geek. But I completely enjoyed this. It was a wonderful read. The women in this book were such great examples not only to all women, but also to the men in their world. This book covers a group of women who were hired by the Jet Propulsion Lab as number crunchers. IBM kept coming up with ginormous calculators to do the math, but they were never reliable, so these women led the way. Often times, they would have to leave their job when they were fired for being pregnant, but they would always come back. I thought the author did a great job and not bogging this down with the scientific details that would mean nothing to me. She kept her focus on the women and their lives, both personal and professional. The computer science details seemed a little to technical for me towards the end, but I was still fascinated with how much they have evolved into what we have today.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Kay

    ★★★★½ I’m still trying to decide what to rate it (4½ or 4 stars). While I loved it, there was A LOT of physics and math. Not that I haven't taken courses in those subjects. Although, I would have liked a few more diagrams, the author does a pretty good job of conveying what these ladies were doing, which was light years beyond my abilities. I'm very appreciative of what these exceptional young women had to deal with in the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond, being more pioneers than radical rebel ★★★★½ I’m still trying to decide what to rate it (4½ or 4 stars). While I loved it, there was A LOT of physics and math. Not that I haven't taken courses in those subjects. Although, I would have liked a few more diagrams, the author does a pretty good job of conveying what these ladies were doing, which was light years beyond my abilities. I'm very appreciative of what these exceptional young women had to deal with in the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond, being more pioneers than radical rebels; they were outstanding in their field and deserve more recognition.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    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 i 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.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    How could these brilliant mathematicians be subjected to Miss Guided Missile beauty pageants? How could they be qualified to work with an exclusive rocket research group yet be disallowed to interview for engineering positions? How could these women be expected to pack up and leave when they married and had children? I was fascinated with these women, their work and their contributions to science but I needed a strong voice of injustice. Instead I got, "Barbara might not be the prettiest girl in How could these brilliant mathematicians be subjected to Miss Guided Missile beauty pageants? How could they be qualified to work with an exclusive rocket research group yet be disallowed to interview for engineering positions? How could these women be expected to pack up and leave when they married and had children? I was fascinated with these women, their work and their contributions to science but I needed a strong voice of injustice. Instead I got, "Barbara might not be the prettiest girl in the lab, but she was sociable and easy to work with." What? I want a do-over. I would love to see a retelling of the story of the Rocket Girls authored by Hope Jahren.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Just A. Bean

    This book was really frustrating, and I don't think I was the target audience. I feel like the target audience is maybe teenagers who are generally in favour of science, but know very, very little about history or NASA. Hopefully some of them enjoy it. From my perspective, it was trying to cover too much ground in way too short a book, and ended up with a very superficial look at a bunch of stuff I already knew about. The stronger sections of the book were probably about JPL's missile days, which This book was really frustrating, and I don't think I was the target audience. I feel like the target audience is maybe teenagers who are generally in favour of science, but know very, very little about history or NASA. Hopefully some of them enjoy it. From my perspective, it was trying to cover too much ground in way too short a book, and ended up with a very superficial look at a bunch of stuff I already knew about. The stronger sections of the book were probably about JPL's missile days, which had a lot more detail about what the women were action doing. By the end, it just talked about what projects women worked on, with not much on their contributions, and kept getting sidetracked on unrelated NASA projects. There were also so many different women in play that I had a difficult time keeping track of them, and felt the book would have been better served by picking two or three who had long careers and sticking with them. Or picking a shorter era and focusing in more detail on what the work involved. The prose wasn't great, and the whole thing badly needed an editor.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Russell

    The story of the "computers" at Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL), long before that term referred to a piece of electronics, "Rise of the Rocket Girls" traces several stories more-or-less in parallel: the lives of the computers, all women, who found a way to use their mathematical skills in the then-emerging field of military rocketry; the evolution of JPL from a small desert "suicide squad" experimenting with rocket fuels to the designer and overseer of unmanned space exploration; and the chang The story of the "computers" at Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL), long before that term referred to a piece of electronics, "Rise of the Rocket Girls" traces several stories more-or-less in parallel: the lives of the computers, all women, who found a way to use their mathematical skills in the then-emerging field of military rocketry; the evolution of JPL from a small desert "suicide squad" experimenting with rocket fuels to the designer and overseer of unmanned space exploration; and the changes in the field of computing with the introduction of the first balky, error-prone machines we would recognize. Along the way Holt brings the women computers to life, giving us intimate views into their struggles inside and outside JPL. We also see the development of the computer from a mere drudge solving equations at a desk to a respected engineer, increasingly responsible for designing missions such as Voyager and the Mars rovers. It's an interesting tale well-told by Holt.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    Battled between 3 - 4 stars, Final 3.5 rocket stars for the women! I might be a little too close to the overall topic of this book to be completely astounded by it. (computers) I certainly do not put myself in their league; not at all. Goodness, these pioneers worked at the JPL, that's huge. I just mean the early days of computers. (Mine mid-70s) Since I was working for a large corporation at the time, I even got to hear and meet the dynamic, Grace Hooper, twice. In full naval uniform. Anyway, ba Battled between 3 - 4 stars, Final 3.5 rocket stars for the women! I might be a little too close to the overall topic of this book to be completely astounded by it. (computers) I certainly do not put myself in their league; not at all. Goodness, these pioneers worked at the JPL, that's huge. I just mean the early days of computers. (Mine mid-70s) Since I was working for a large corporation at the time, I even got to hear and meet the dynamic, Grace Hooper, twice. In full naval uniform. Anyway, back to the book, when the author is covering facts about the space program, etc. and the projects the women worked on, it was good to read. However, the was way too much info about their appearance, clothes, love life, etc. Why all this, and from a female author. Very disappointed that she felt compelled to add these details, especially in 2016.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    Loved reading about women making a deliberate effort to hire more women into an unwelcoming field. Plus, there's a lot about math and coding for a non-technical book. But also, it's JPL, and they're exploring the solar system, which is as cool as it gets. I really enjoyed the interweaving of professional and personal events and anecdotes. If you're a fan of end notes, these are especially rich. Library copy. Loved reading about women making a deliberate effort to hire more women into an unwelcoming field. Plus, there's a lot about math and coding for a non-technical book. But also, it's JPL, and they're exploring the solar system, which is as cool as it gets. I really enjoyed the interweaving of professional and personal events and anecdotes. If you're a fan of end notes, these are especially rich. Library copy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mlpmom (Book Reviewer)

    Loved how this read more like a book than an autobiography. Also loved learning about this amazing women that helped pave the way for future generations! They were so inspiring and I loved getting little bits about their every day life and family as well.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Emmi

    This book tells the story of the women who worked at JPL, the Jet Propulsion Lab, that was part of Caltech and NASA. JPL was founded in the early 1940's. The women were "computers", not "engineers". They did all the calculations for the early experiments in rocket design, moving on to work on designing missles, and then spacecraft. Initially they did all their work with paper, graph paper, and pencil. Then they used mechanical calculators, and slide rules. As the years passed they became softwar This book tells the story of the women who worked at JPL, the Jet Propulsion Lab, that was part of Caltech and NASA. JPL was founded in the early 1940's. The women were "computers", not "engineers". They did all the calculations for the early experiments in rocket design, moving on to work on designing missles, and then spacecraft. Initially they did all their work with paper, graph paper, and pencil. Then they used mechanical calculators, and slide rules. As the years passed they became software developers, working on the design of the missions and writing the code for Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, the Mars rovers, and many early pioneering spacecraft, and the Deep Space Network which is a network of tracking stations around the earth that pick up signals from spacecraft. This is an amazing story, a great story for everyone to know, but especially for those who, like me, were girls who dreamed of space. Women doing math and science and computer science, way back in the old days! So exciting! Thank you, Liz, for getting this book for me!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne

    The women are fascinating but the book leaves much to be desired. Simplistic prose; choppy, erratic organization; lack of substance and an overall weak writing style all contribute to a lackluster portrayal of a very dynamic time in both American and women's history. The frequent brushing off of opportunities to discuss social issues of the time (e.g. going no further than, "She was pregnant, so she knew she'd have to quit,") and glossing over all but the most basic science would have left a med The women are fascinating but the book leaves much to be desired. Simplistic prose; choppy, erratic organization; lack of substance and an overall weak writing style all contribute to a lackluster portrayal of a very dynamic time in both American and women's history. The frequent brushing off of opportunities to discuss social issues of the time (e.g. going no further than, "She was pregnant, so she knew she'd have to quit,") and glossing over all but the most basic science would have left a mediocre impression regardless; the fact that there are more detailed descriptions of outfits than calculations just left a bad taste. Finishing was a struggle.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    Okay, so I'm definitely biased because I had the good fortune to meet the author and the majority of the women featured in the book. This is such an inspiring story, for women everywhere, especially in the sciences. I love JPL, female empowerment and space history so really this was the perfect book for me! I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in history of JPL and wanting to learn about the untold story of female programming pioneers. Okay, so I'm definitely biased because I had the good fortune to meet the author and the majority of the women featured in the book. This is such an inspiring story, for women everywhere, especially in the sciences. I love JPL, female empowerment and space history so really this was the perfect book for me! I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in history of JPL and wanting to learn about the untold story of female programming pioneers.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    50% general JPL history, 15% general history, 15% general science lessons, 10% fanfic-like scenes involving crinoline, pantyhose, and smoothing one's hair, 5% painful transition sentences. "While Helen was getting married, America's space program was also making it official." No. I feel like only 5% of this book is actually about its purported subject matter. Which, given the subject, is incredibly disappointing. This is unlike any biography or history book I've ever read. There are no citations wi 50% general JPL history, 15% general history, 15% general science lessons, 10% fanfic-like scenes involving crinoline, pantyhose, and smoothing one's hair, 5% painful transition sentences. "While Helen was getting married, America's space program was also making it official." No. I feel like only 5% of this book is actually about its purported subject matter. Which, given the subject, is incredibly disappointing. This is unlike any biography or history book I've ever read. There are no citations within the text to back up whatever the author is writing at the moment. There are literal fanfic-like scenes of the women picking out their dresses for the day. The writing is awkward and forced. Chapters are bookended by a fanfic interlude in the beginning, to set the mood I suppose, and an awkward transition at the end. Everything's done chronologically, without a very clear line of progress for the women themselves, only JPL. The only names I can recall are Barbara, Helen and Sue, probably because they featured most prominently at the end. Everything's jumbled up together with passing references to this girl and that, barely more than a paragraph all together for some. Interesting and important facts are glossed over, not the least of which being an actual Nazi working at JPL, which earned maybe two sentences and the rest of the book was about his great contributions. Really, none of the women had anything more to say on the subject than basically "yeah, it was a little awkward"? The book is just a real disappointment. I don't recommend it. It was painful to read and I don't want any of my friends to slog through that.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Xandria

    I tried. I really, really tried. But when a book is supposed to show light on women who history has hidden, a book that I was so excited to read, becomes a sexist shit show, there's only so much a person can take. "but Barbara wouldn’t consider coming to work looking so informal. Every morning she carefully selected dresses and skirts, wore high heels, and always, no matter how hot the day was, put on stockings. Barbara was playful with her clothing, but not at work. She wasn’t interested in att I tried. I really, really tried. But when a book is supposed to show light on women who history has hidden, a book that I was so excited to read, becomes a sexist shit show, there's only so much a person can take. "but Barbara wouldn’t consider coming to work looking so informal. Every morning she carefully selected dresses and skirts, wore high heels, and always, no matter how hot the day was, put on stockings. Barbara was playful with her clothing, but not at work. She wasn’t interested in attracting anyone at JPL." Thank you, author, for going in depth on her appearance. I picked up this book specifically to see what Barbara would wear! "Her right index finger was lined with thick red and white calluses, the result of clutching a pencil for hours a day. Her grip on the pencil often made her hand perspire, leaving pucker marks across the graph paper." This is so helpful in learning about women who helped launch the rocket program during WWII! Probably useful information for Jeopardy! The writing is horrible. I've always believed that scientists and the humanities should always pair up when creating a piece of nonfiction work. We can help! More importantly, the women showcased in the book are important but are presented as objectified pieces. And it's a shame. They deserve better. Now that I know the names of the women who helped launch the rocket program, Google will help me research them to their full intelligent capacity than this book ever could.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Mae

    This was a delightful and fascinating read about the women "computers" who helped build the space program in the late 40s, into the 50s, and through to today. We follow a few key women throughout the decades, following the progression of the space program and the role of women in the sciences. The author throws in some fun anecdotes, like when a couple of the women decided it was acceptable to finally wear pant suits, along with the struggles many of these women had in the early days of getting This was a delightful and fascinating read about the women "computers" who helped build the space program in the late 40s, into the 50s, and through to today. We follow a few key women throughout the decades, following the progression of the space program and the role of women in the sciences. The author throws in some fun anecdotes, like when a couple of the women decided it was acceptable to finally wear pant suits, along with the struggles many of these women had in the early days of getting married, getting pregnant, and facing the choice of leaving a job you loved or attempt the fine balancing act of being a working mother. Highly inspiring! Just enough science is covered to give the reader an idea of what's going on in the profession without being overwhelming. Having previously read The Astronaut Wives Club, this was an awesome book to get a women's perspective of the space program from a totally different angle.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    I started crying in chapter 2 and then started tearing up every few pages. My mom was an engineer so the book hits close to home. The story is so inspiring and I wish I could hand it to every young girl out there. I just love this book!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daphne

    Really interesting book about a group of scientists I knew almost nothing about going in. As a modern feminist with a love of science and history, this book hit me in the feels as much as the mind.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    great book to listen to...I really enjoyed learning about the evolution of computers from people to devices in the history of rocket making in the US

  27. 5 out of 5

    LAPL Reads

    When Natalia Holt, scientific researcher and writer, and her husband were searching for a name for their baby daughter, they googled the name Eleanor Frances. Among the names, she became intrigued with Eleanor Francis Helin, a scientist who had worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for over three decades, starting in the 1960s. Who was this woman and were there other women working at NASA during this time? Two births emerged: baby daughter Eleanor, and a research project about the women beh When Natalia Holt, scientific researcher and writer, and her husband were searching for a name for their baby daughter, they googled the name Eleanor Frances. Among the names, she became intrigued with Eleanor Francis Helin, a scientist who had worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for over three decades, starting in the 1960s. Who was this woman and were there other women working at NASA during this time? Two births emerged: baby daughter Eleanor, and a research project about the women behind the rocket science that sent Americans into space. Today there are many innovations which are taken for granted: digitization, hand-held devices that contain chunks of our personal lives and are able to access the world, and more notably news of space stations where astronauts come and go, and the rockets that propel them are part of everyday life. Not that long ago, these were the dreams of science fiction and fantasy writers, but there were many engineers and scientists who had visions of making space travel a reality, and with rare exception almost all of these dreamers were men who worked on the actual projects. There were women, who were not engineers but had strong math skills and were hired as human calculators during the 1940s and 1950s at JPL. These women were not doing simple sums, but complex calculations which produced pages of measurements, and numerous calculation tables vital to, ". . . rocketed heavy bombers over the Pacific, launched America's first satellite, guided lunar missions and planetary exploration." When rocket science and space travel became a reality, the human calculators were essential to all that took place before, during and after the launches. Holt covers the 1940s through the 1970s, beginning with a portrait of the Suicide Squad, a group of irrepressible scientists who would launch their own rockets from the relatively empty arroyo in Pasadena. There was Caltech and the nascent Jet Propulsion Lab developing the support and innovation for future space exploration. Portraits of the people who worked at JPL reveal their passion for the work which precluded and overshadowed any type of 9 to 5 job schedule. For the most part there was camaraderie, team spirit, and the interpersonal feelings and excitement which permeated all the projects, and created enthusiastic motivation for the staff working on earth-bound jobs to create successful space-projected missions Not all U.S. engineers and scientists supported rocketry and there were schisms in the ether spheres of institutions such as Caltech and MIT. These two technical institutions had an east-coast-west-coast difference of opinion. There were MIT scientists who scoffed at exploring rocketry and dismissed it as science fiction nonsense, while the Caltech scientists were experimenting with designs and tests in order to fulfill the dream and prove the naysayers wrong. While she dealt with the problems of motherhood and a career, Holt often wondered about those rocket girls and how they managed their lives. She wanted her future daughter, and other young women, not to be hampered by any type of actual or inherent limitations, instead to be inspired by the accomplishments of other women. Holt’s curiosity and determination motivated her to research and write the forgotten history of women whose contributions made space travel possible, and as a reminder to young girls and young women to dream big to achieve big. Reviewed by Sheryn Morris, Librarian, Central Library

  28. 5 out of 5

    D.R. Oestreicher

    Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt intertwines two historical narratives: NASA space exploration and the women at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Both these stories started with World War II, but with the end of that war, the efforts transitioned to scientific missions. In the beginning women could not be engineers, but they could be computers – women who manually performed the complex calculations required by male engineers. As bad as this discrimination might sound today, it was a great Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt intertwines two historical narratives: NASA space exploration and the women at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Both these stories started with World War II, but with the end of that war, the efforts transitioned to scientific missions. In the beginning women could not be engineers, but they could be computers – women who manually performed the complex calculations required by male engineers. As bad as this discrimination might sound today, it was a great opportunity for women in the 40s and 50s when many engineering schools didn't even accept women anyway. These were rigorous technical jobs, sometimes given to women who showed only promise and interest, sometimes right out of high school. Their success was what we might expect today, but would have shocked the people of their generation who didn't expect women to work, and if they did, the career choices were nurse, teacher, and secretary, not planning interplanetary missions. Aside from all working on space exploration, the women were from different races, and some married, some divorced, some had children, some didn't. As today, this history shows that gender tells little about a person. This is a wonderful history of technical women and NASA. For more see: http://1book42day.blogspot.com/2016/0...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    SO BORING!!!! Expectations: Thoughtful commentary on the struggles of these extraordinarily bright women in a fiercely male-dominated field or perhaps interesting anecdotes from their time at JPL and their lives as working women with their own personal lives relying heavily on primary sources. Reality: Unnecessary details about form fitting a-line dresses and other banal anecdotes that read as shitty historical fic interspersed with copy-pasted factoids about space history from Wikipedia. If I wa SO BORING!!!! Expectations: Thoughtful commentary on the struggles of these extraordinarily bright women in a fiercely male-dominated field or perhaps interesting anecdotes from their time at JPL and their lives as working women with their own personal lives relying heavily on primary sources. Reality: Unnecessary details about form fitting a-line dresses and other banal anecdotes that read as shitty historical fic interspersed with copy-pasted factoids about space history from Wikipedia. If I wanted to read a book about the accomplishments of men I would have just gotten one the dozens of books written about NASA and the space race. I wanted something more than "she made some calculations and working with her fellow computers was awesome, now let me bore you with five pages of rocket history". The author grossly glosses over the work these women do and the bullshit they had to contend with. Also, poorly organized - the book just floats from one woman to the next and back with no special thought or care. I could say more and probably have reviewed this more articulately but this book doesn't deserve any more of my brain power. This book is a disappointment and a disservice to the women it's about. TL;DR I shouldn't have bothered with this and just read Hidden Figures like I wanted to. ZERO STARS.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I was really interested in reading this book, and it was worthwhile and interesting to learn about how women were actually the "computers" doing all of the trajectory/power math and planning for the Jet Propulsion Lab's space projects, but I wanted it to go deeper into their work. How did they work with the male "engineers" and what was the division of labor? It was hard to tell whether the women just solved problems asked by the engineers or whether they were an integral part of the design proc I was really interested in reading this book, and it was worthwhile and interesting to learn about how women were actually the "computers" doing all of the trajectory/power math and planning for the Jet Propulsion Lab's space projects, but I wanted it to go deeper into their work. How did they work with the male "engineers" and what was the division of labor? It was hard to tell whether the women just solved problems asked by the engineers or whether they were an integral part of the design process. The book mentions the challenges with work/life balance and, superficially, several of the women's home relationships. But, at a time when most women didn't have "careers", I would like to know more of how their families and peers regarded them and even how rival groups regarded JPL in this respect. Perhaps the problem of the book was in trying to cover too much time (the 1930s to present) with too many women (I honestly got them confused). Great topic, but left me wanting more on many levels.

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