Women’s Space History Timeline

A duel timeline highlighting major contributions by women to the research, exploration, and development of outer space (widely construed) placed in the context of some of the major historical events and discoveries of their time.

Antiquity – 1850

1850 – Present (Under Construction)

About the Timeline(s)

As many of you know, I used to teach a course entitled The Women’s History of Outer Space. One of the assignments I developed for this course was a timeline that my students build over the course of the term. I pre-populated the timeline with many things – wars, empires, key legislation, and some basic information about the feminist movements. Each week, students choose a woman from the era discussed in class 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, creating narratives of the lives and contributions of the people we study. These timeline narratives are excellent opportunities for students to practice research, writing, and logic skills. As students create timeline narratives, they begin to see history in context. Near the end of the term, students explore the timeline and analyze the interrelations between historical time periods and the individual stories that emerge from them, drawing conclusions on the status of women and gender and the drivers for change.

After seeing how powerful this assignment can be, I have decided to create a 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.

While I have compiled all of 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 many amazing women who have directly worked on this topic such as: Dr. Nathalia Holt, Historian Bettyann Holtzmann Kelvles, Librarian Ruth S. Freitag, Dr. Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie, Dr. Sethanne Howard and many many more. I have compiled a reading list of resources that should be helpful to anyone with an interest in doing further research.

Certainly, this list is not 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 discover someone new and bring it to my attention. (I even give bonus points for doing so!) It’s one of the greatest joys of teaching! If you see glaring omissions or have reference suggestions, please contact me anytime!