See You in the Morning (Feb 27) at 11 A.M. Central Time!
Tomorrow morning, February 27, fans of the Mercury 13 will meet, VIRTUALLY, to celebrate their 60th anniversary! — 11 am to 1 pm Central Time. Those in the other three time zones need to adjust accordingly. The celebration is courtesy of the Ninety-Nines Museum of Women Pilots (MWP), located in Oklahoma City. Proceeds from the ticket sales go to support the WMP.
In 1960-’61, Jerrie Cobb, Myrtle “K” Cagle, Rhea Hurrle Allison Woltman, Irene Leverton, Jane Hart, B Steadman, twins Jan and Marian Dietrich, Jeri (Sloan)Truhill, Gene Nora Jessen, Sarah Gorelick Ratley and Wally Funk, successfully passed the same physiological tests as those undergone by the Mercury 7 astronauts.
Mercury 13 fans will get to meet and greet Gene Nora and Wally, the last two surviving members of that special group, personally on February 27. Via clips from film shot during the group’s 30th anniversary reunion October 28, 1991, you will meet B Steadman, Myrtle Cagle, Rhea Woltman and Irene Leverton.
Tickets are almost gone, but the link to Eventbrite is posted below, so those of you who desire to attend can still give it a shot! A few slots still are available. The deadline is 7 pm tonight February 26, (Central Time).
Eileen Collins Is the Keynote Speaker
Eileen Collins, the first woman astronaut to pilot and later command a space flight, is our Keynote Speaker. Janet Ivey, of PBS’s Emmy-winning Janet’s Planet, is our Emcee. Alyssa Carson, a 19-year-old aspiring astronaut, is also our guest.
Sadly, Rhea Woltman took her final flight earlier this month. We had hoped to have her with us. Joining us instead is her nephew, Todd Hurrle, who will talk a bit about his incredible aunt. There will be a moment of silence to remember the 11 who have flown west.
These women pilots first were known as the First Lady Astronaut Trainees — though they really weren’t trainees. They were, for lack of a better word, guinea pigs undergoing testing. Today, they are far better known as the Mercury 13.
I had the good fortune to be working for IWASM (the International Women’s Air and Space Museum) back in 1991. My boss Joan Hrubec and I had established the museum’s popular Monday night “Women in Aviation” program series, filmed at Miami Valley Cable Council in Centerville, Ohio. The show appeared on the local public access TV station in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio. We planned to kick off the 1991-92 year with a panel discussion among these women known then as the FLATs: First Lady Astronaut Trainees.
IWASM Exec. VP “B” Steadman One of the 13
IWASM’s executive vice president, B Steadman, was one of the 13 and we at the museum definitely wanted to recognize her.
Only five of the women were able to attend. But we celebrated big time!!! The Sunday before the Monday evening presentation, we hosted Jerrie Cobb, Myrtle Cagle, Rhea Woltman, Irene Leverton and B Steadman with a big luncheon at the Officers Club at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
IWASM, today, resides in Cleveland, Ohio, at Burke Lakefront Airport, at the southern end of Lake Erie. The museum, however, opened officially in the fall of 1986, the first tenant of the recently refurbished Asahel Wright House, Centerville, Ohio.
Note the “Wright” name. Yes, Asahel Wright was a distant relative of THE Wright Brothers — Orville and Wilbur — who made Dayton, Ohio, famous when they built the first “heavier than air” craft to fly.
IWASM Moves From Centerville to Cleveland, in 1998
The house at the center of town was one of the original stone houses at that intersection built in the wilderness in 1797. The City of Centerville and the Centerville Historical Society’s wanted to preserve the house. The community kicked in, worked on the structure, and did the job. To get a tenant for the house, the City offered the fledgling museum — IWASM— a lease for a dollar a year. The museum opened in fall 1986.
The two lived happily ever after, until 1998 when the museum moved to Cleveland. Need for more space plus the fact that the two women responsible for the museum lived in Cleveland. It had become a hardship for them to travel to the other end of Ohio every other week to keep the museum open and functioning.
I feel so fortunate to have been a part of IWASM during its early days in Centerville. Today I still serve as one of the museum’s advisors. And I thank them so very much for making the film of the 1991 reunion available to the 99s Museum of Women Pilots to show in connection with the Mercury 13’s big 60th gala!
Two Sarahs: Ratley and Rickman: at the 99s 90-Year Celebration, November 2, 2019
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