The Demise of the Astronaut Wives Club
When NASA first selected humans to go into space at the beginning of the 1960s, the men’s wives quickly organized themselves into the Astronaut Wives Club to support the new space men. Books and movies showcased those brave women.
Most had been in military wives’ groups.
They weathered absence and work schedules…even deaths. Most had strong marriages, but a few didn’t last. (I wondered if there was an Ex-Wives Club…)
Growing up, I had a similar group of girlfriends. In high school I had the pleasure of having both book-ish friends and fellow cheerleading pals (who, by the way, were plenty smart). Luckily, when I got to college, I joined a sorority and had a house full of ready-made buddies. After my university days, I entered the practically all-male world of medical school and surgery residency. The female nurses took me under their wings, thank goodness.
Then, there was NASA. There were six women in my Astronaut class but very few other women at the Johnson Space Center besides our secretaries and the cafeteria personnel. What do you do when you no longer have a group of close like-minded lady friends?
Sometimes, those women find you.
When our class of thirty-five new Astronauts arrived in 1978, it brought along about 25 wives who quickly became my friends and allies. Like all mostly military groups, we socialized frequently. I got to know the wives of my class of Astronauts well and some of the wives from earlier classes.
They were a godsend.
A few wives who had concerns about their husbands spending so much time with the women Astronauts – we trained together, often traveled together, and flew the jets together. (One wife made it clear to her husband that he was not to fly with a woman in the back seat of his jet.)
When I got pregnant with my son Paul, the wives were my go-to saviors. Where to find maternity clothes, the best pediatrician, hints on croupy babies? As Paul got older and was in daycare, what could I do if he was feverish and could not attend? I found a few Astronaut wives who would let Paul stay with them for the day.
Bless you Barbara Hoffman!
As part of the small town around the Johnson Space Center, our children grew up together.
The Astronaut wives were the quintessential support group. There were baby showers, weddings, cocktail parties for the wives of crew members about to launch. They helped with pre-launch receptions for our guests in Florida and watched launches and landings together. We all weathered the storm of deaths and funerals together.
An interesting name change had to occur when the women Astronauts began to fly in space. Several of us were married, but we had husbands, not “wives.” The Astronaut Wives Club could be no more. It was renamed to the more inclusive Astronaut Spouse Club. My husband, Hoot Gibson, proudly became one its first members.
If you’d like to receive my blog to your inbox each month, we’d love to add you to our email list. If you have not yet signed up, please do so today by clicking here.