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Brief bio of Valentina Tereshkova

2009 February 23
by Cleo Calbot

I represented the retired female cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova and figured that a brief background might shed a bit of light on some of the answers I gave in class today.

Valentina was the oldest of three children raised by a single mother, after her husband was killed in WWII. When her mother was unable to adequately support the family, Valentina took up work in a textile factory and dropped out of school. She learned how to sky-dive and parachute through a small organization that she founded, and was approached when she was in her early 20s about being a part of the mission to send a woman into space.

While going through the program for female cosmonauts, which was FAR more demanding, stressful, and unfriendly than the program for the males, scientists discovered in the cases of all the women, the women were more able to deal with the stresses of space (i.e. G-forces) than the men were. While up in space, Valentina, “noticed immediately on orbit insertion that her capsule was oriented [incorrectly], which meant that if retrofire was initiated, she would be sent to her death in a higher orbit rather than braked for a return to earth.” She reported this, and her evaluation was found to be correct. This incident went on her record as partial insubordination, which was dismissed as “feminine tendencies.”

Finally, after the marriage (forced by Khrushchev), Valentina gave her opinion on women in fields of science,

“I believe a woman should always remain a woman and nothing feminine should be alien to her. At the same time I strongly feel that no work done by a woman in the field of science or culture or whatever, however vigorous or demanding, can enter into conflict with her ancient ‘wonderful mission’—to love, to be loved—and with her craving for the bliss of motherhood. On the contrary, these two aspects of her life can complement each other perfectly.”


I found the differences between Valentina and Sally Ride quite interesting, and it makes me wonder if the differences in their experiences were brought out of class differences, different countries, or different time periods.

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