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Sally Ride, First U.S. Woman In Space, A Lesbian, Dies Of Cancer At 61

by David Badash on July 23, 2012

in Celebrities,News

Post image for Sally Ride, First U.S. Woman In Space, A Lesbian, Dies Of Cancer At 61

Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space as well as the youngest American in space, founder of Sally Ride Science, a nationally ranked tennis player in college, and a lesbian, died today after a seventeen-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Dr. Ride was 61. She is survived by her partner of 27 years, Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, who is also the COO and Executive Vice President of Sally Ride Science and a Professor Emerita of School Psychology at San Diego State University, along with her mother, Joyce and sister, Bear.

Sally Kristen Ride, Ph.D., earned her master’s degree and a Ph.D. in physics, went to NASA in 1978 after responding to a newspaper ad, left in 1987 for Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Arms Control.

She was especially interested in inspiring girls to embrace science, and she was a climate change activist. Dr. Ride endorsed Barack Obama in 2008.

In an article at Sally Ride Science — “an innovative science education company dedicated to supporting girls’ and boys’ interests in science, math and technology” – the organization she founded in 2001, describes her early relationship with O’Shaughnessy:

“Sally Ride and Tam O’Shaughnessy became friends at the age of 12 when they both played tennis. While their lives took different paths, they stayed in contact over the years. Ride went to Stanford University, earned a BS, an MS, and a PhD in physics, and became the first American woman to fly in space; O’Shaughnessy became a professional tennis player and later earned a BS and an MS in biology from Georgia State University and a PhD in school psychology from the University of California–Riverside. Not only have the two remained good friends but they are also coauthors of several science books for children…”

A list of Dr. Ride’s accomplishments can be found on her website, along with a photo gallery and her biography.

Editor’s note: To be as accurate and as humanly fair as possible to an American hero and icon, Sally Ride never came out publicly, nor did she ever publicly state she was a lesbian. Her officially obituary released by Sally Ride Science states she was in a 27-year relationship with Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, a woman. 

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{ 8 comments }

Alex_Parrish July 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Rest in Peace, Dr. Ride. You were a courageous and brilliant pioneer in both science and LGBT rights.

lysana July 23, 2012 at 8:22 pm

So identifying her as a lesbian when she could have been bisexual or pansexual is what we call monosexism or erasure. As a "civil rights" blog, you'd do well to be more sensitive to such issues.

lilyqueen July 23, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I'm a great admirer of Dr. Ride. She was married to astronaut Steven Hawley for several years, she never came out publicly, and we don't know very much about her personal life, so if the writer is going to assign her a label without her permission, "bisexual" seems more accurate, given that we can't ask her. (We do exist, after all.) Pending further information, anyway…I know the mainstream media is squeamish about that description, but bothers me deeply when our side is, too.

wahela July 23, 2012 at 8:32 pm

I don't care either way if Dr. Ride was a lesbian or not. That has no bearing on her accomplishments or her life. Suffice to say she inspired many young women to work hard to get an education, knowing that the sky is the limit for us all. She was in a long relationship and that is all that needed to be said. She's really up there in the stars now. I bet she is awe struck.

sheski July 23, 2012 at 11:09 pm

If Ms. Ride never publicly labeled herself as a lesbian than you have no right to do so here. The headline is disrespectful of a woman who deserves great respect. For all you who mistakenly believe that love is based on gender either 'hetero' or 'homo' grow up and consider that just maybe two brilliant women fell in love for reasons other than gender. The label was hers to choose not yours.

GyFy July 24, 2012 at 2:19 am

Talk about homophobia! Ride a "bisexual" because she was married for less than 5 years to a man? She spent 27 years of her intimate life with a woman, but she should be considered "bisexual"? LOL! Obviously some people here are clueless about what "coming out" means. Sally Ride's own family has no problem with acknowledging that she was a lesbian in private life, so why should anyone else? “I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them,” Sally Ride's sister, Bear Ride, said. – http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/first-female

jearuiz01 September 27, 2012 at 11:24 am

This is actually true that all you who mistakenly believe that love is based on gender either 'hetero' or 'homo' grow up and consider that just maybe two brilliant women fell in love for reasons other than gender. The label was hers to choose not yours. information

nod32 Keys April 27, 2013 at 1:26 am

he was the first American woman in space as well as the youngest American in space.

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