On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride boarded the Challenger, and became the first American woman to traverse the cosmos. Originally, NASA had restricted its corps of astronauts to men, but, according to History.com, “in 1978 [the agency] changed its policy…[and] approved six women out of…3,000 original applicants to [emerge as] the first female astronauts in the U.S. space program.”
Ride—with “Stanford stamped” degrees in science and physics, was quickly positioned in the inaugural lineup. “She became an on-the-ground capsule communicator for NASA’s STS-2 and STS-3 [Space Transportation System] missions in 1981 and 1982, and an expert in controlling the shuttle’s robotic arm. NASA assigned Ride to be part of the STS-7 crew on April 30, 1982, serving as mission specialist and joining Commander Robert L. Crippen, mission specialist John M. Fabian, physician-astronaut Norman E. Thagard and pilot Frederick H. Hauck on the historic flight.”
For more information, The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Sally Ride’s and Susan Okie’s To Space & Back.
After World War I, America’s unemployed veterans were promised Bonus Act payments for their services, but political delays left them adrift in poverty. Finally, President Franklin Roosevelt ended the ordeal:
According to History.com, “as the last of its sweeping New Deal reforms, Roosevelt’s administration created the G.I. Bill (officially the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944) to avoid a relapse into the Great Depression after the war ended. FDR particularly wanted to prevent a repeat of the Bonus March of 1932, and when 20,000 unemployed veterans and their families flocked in protest to Washington. The American Legion, a veteran’s organization, successfully fought for many of the provisions included in the bill, which gave returning servicemen access to unemployment compensation, low-interest home and business loans, and—most importantly—funding for education.”
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The GI Bill: The New Deal for Veterans by Glenn Altschuler and Stuart Blumin.
On June 27, 1829, James Smithson, an English scientist–and well-to-do member of the National Academy of Sciences–died at the age of sixty-four, and left his entire fortune of $500,000 ($16,487,120 in 2023) “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of Smithsonian Institution an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”
Some people say the bequest was motivated, “in part–by revenge–against the rigidities of British society, which had denied Smithson, who was illegitimate, the right to use his father’s name.”
After Congress learned of the lucky largesse, it was decided to use the funds to build museums, conduct research, produce publications; invest in the sciences, the arts, and history.
Now, it is comprised of a worldwide network of 21 buildings, nine research facilities, a Zoo, and 2016’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Gore Vidal’s novel, The Smithsonian Institution.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.