‘I vowed that I would talk about my work.’
As a little girl, the idea that I might be the first woman of color to go to space would have seemed ridiculous. Of course we would have had all kinds of people up there by the time I was old enough to do anything! Growing up, I always assumed I would go to space. I wanted to do lots of things. Be a scientist, a dancer, a policymaker. I would make a difference in what happens in the world, and I knew that I could.
People might ask how I felt that way, since in the ’60s one didn’t frequently see images of women and people of color involved in science and technology. And yet I knew, because I had done a great job picking my parents. We talked about strong women. They made sure my siblings and I knew about the remarkable contributions that African Americans had made to this world.
Being first gives you a responsibility—you have a public platform, and you must choose how to use it. I use mine to help folks become more comfortable with the idea that science is integral to our world. And I vowed that I would talk about my work and ask other women about theirs—the nitty-gritty details. People say you can have everything. No, you can’t. But you can have a lot more—and do a lot more—than you think.
Jemison, who holds degrees in engineering and medicine, went to space on the Endeavour in 1992.