the Women’s History of Outer Space Timeline

Three timelines highlighting many of the contributions made by women to the research, exploration, and development of outer space placed in the wider context of some of the major relevant historical events, inventions, and discoveries.    To help with scale issues, I’ve broken the timeline down into three time periods.
(Click the images to proceed!)

the Women's History of Outer Space : Antiquity through 1600    the Women's History of Outer Space : 1600 through 1920    the Women's History of Outer Space : 1920 through 2020


I’ve taught many classes over the years on the History of Outer Space at both the University of North Dakota and Oregon State University.   But, the ‘traditional’ story of Newton and Copernicus and the Apollo astronauts (etc.) often minimizes or overlooks the contributions of women entirely.   So, in 2016, I developed and began teaching a new course entitled The Women’s History of Outer Space.   One of the assignments that I developed for this course was a timeline that my students would build over the course of the term.  I would pre-populate the timeline with wars, key legislation, some basic information about the various feminist movements, etc.  then, each week, students would choose an individual woman from the era discussed in class, do some independent research, and add them to the timeline.

The assignment has multiple pedagogical goals, one of which is to make students better writers.   Each week, students evaluate and summarize material from multiple  sources to create narratives of the lives and contributions of women during the era we study. These timeline narratives provide excellent opportunities for students to practice research, writing, and logic skills. As the timeline develops, students begin to see history in context. Near the end of the term, students explore the timeline they created and analyze the interrelations between historical time periods and the individual stories that emerge from them, drawing conclusions on the status of women and the drivers for change.

After seeing how powerful this assignment can be, I wanted to make my own public version of the timeline.  I have tried to make this useful and interesting to both university and elementary school researchers alike.   Obviously, there is much more to each story than I can fit in the tiny space available and I decided very early that I want this to be a resource that didn’t require significant academic expertise to understand.  This resource should be the beginning, not the end, of your exploration.  I am in the process of compiling a small resource list that should be helpful to anyone with an interest in doing further academic research as well as a series of lesson plan additions for teachers.  (Coming before 2022 is out, I promise!)

While I have compiled this information into a single place (and I’m certainly not the first person to attempt this), the truth is that these timelines reference the work of literally hundreds of people, including the research of several women who have directly worked on this topic including: Dr. Nathalia Holt, Historian Bettyann Holtzmann Kelvles, Librarian Ruth S. Freitag, Dr. Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie, Dr. Sethanne Howard and many many more.   They deserve all of the credit.

This list is not – and cannot be – exhaustive.   The one thing you learn from doing this type of work is that it is simply impossible to create a complete list. Every single term my students would discover someone new and bring it to my attention. (I even gave bonus points for doing so!)  It’s one of the greatest joys of teaching to have your students educate you!   If you see glaring errors or omissions or have reference suggestions, please contact me anytime!