Thursday, September 20, 2012

Astronaut Sally Ride: Rest in Peace

Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, died on July 23, 2012 after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, her company said. She was 61.

"Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, commitment and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless," read a statement on the website of Sally Ride Science, a company she started to help teach students -- particularly young women and girls -- about science, math and technology.

In the obituary for Ride, female partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy, is listed first as a survivor. Then the obituary mentions her mother and other family members. Ride had been married to a fellow astronaut for five years, from 1982 to 1987. The news about O'Shaughnessy surprised those not in Ride's inner circle and sparked a national debate about the intensely complex and private issue of coming out and throwing your name behind gay causes.

"Could she have helped the cause? Maybe," says Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. "For her not to have shared an incredibly important aspect of her life — being in a committed long-term relationship with a woman — meant many Americans did not get to see a dimension of her life that would have helped them understand us (gay people) and our contributions to society."

Her contributions can still be appreciated in a new context now, according to Ride's sister, Bear Ride, a lesbian who has supported gay rights causes.

"She was just a very private person who wanted to do things her way," Bear Ride told the Associated Press in an e-mail. "She didn't like labels (including hero)."
"At the end of the day, I gained an incredible respect for Sally Ride for knowing who she was and that she was true to herself and her family," says Sainz in an article for USA Today. "Clearly, it was not important to her that she live someone else's sense of who she should be. I think that's how we should all live our lives."

No comments:

Post a Comment