#29 in a Series Examining Every Item on the Beloit Mindset List

Women have always piloted war planes and space shuttles. (Class of 2016, #23)

There has always been a woman on the Supreme Court, and women have always been traveling into space. (Class of 2003, #4)

In an earlier post, I pointed out that since two-thirds of Americans couldn’t name any Supreme Court Justices, the court’s membership isn’t much of a cultural touchstone. Sadly, the identity of astronauts is probably similarly unknown.

The BML Class of 2003 list has a double-barreled item about women having always been on the Supreme Court and traveling in space. Sandra Day O’Connor joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981, the birth year of much of the class of 2003. So that much is right (if you accept the BML’s nonstandard use of the word “always”). But the first “woman in space” was Valentina Tereshkova, who piloted a Vostok spacecraft into orbit in 1963, around the time the class of 1985 was being born. It’s just not that hard to look this stuff up.

Thirteen years later Messrs. McBride and Nief returned to the topic of women in space for the Class of 2016 with another double-barreled question. The first female Space Shuttle pilot was Eileen Collins, who piloted the Discovery in 1995, a year after the BML-approved birth year for the Class of 2016. The first American female fighter pilot was Jeannie Leavitt in 1993 (although women had been flying fighter planes in Turkey starting in 1936 and in Soviet Union during World War II). So the chronology works out even if neither of these facts has anything to do with “cultural touchstones” or “mindsets.”

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