women's history, space history, labor history
By focusing on women workers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, this study seeks to understand why women were initially congregated in certain occupations such as clerical work and later moved into non-traditional jobs such as engineering and the sciences. Such an investigation requires careful examination of the changing attitudes towards female workers in technical or non-traditional fields and why and how those attitudes changed over time and the extent to which this occurred. It also attempts to identify areas of continuing concern. The study reveals that several factors contributed to the women's progress in the workplace. These included the rise of the second wave of feminism, the federal government's support for the new feminism, favorable U.S. Supreme Court decisions and the willingness of officials at NASA's Kennedy Space Center to implement federal decrees. In addition, the women's movement expanded its efforts to encourage women to gain the skills and education that were necessary to move women into scientific and technical fields, although recently that effort has reached a plateau. The research for this study includes employee data from NASA and KSC, oral histories with female KSC workers, articles from KSC's official employee newsletter, Spaceport News, websites, and other secondary sources about women in technical fields, women in the workplace, and the recruitment of women into the labor force. Data from NASA and Spaceport News articles was also compared with information obtained through oral histories, to determine if the official policies of KSC influenced the behavior of its employees. Attention is also given to the legislation and court cases that opened doors for women seeking new avenues of advancement and the extent to which these outside factors influenced changes in women's employment and opportunities at KSC. This study shows that the status of women at KSC changed along with the larger women's movement in America. Supreme Court cases and Equal Employment Opportunity laws helped women gain headway in fields traditionally occupied by men. Women received token representation at first, but later moved up in their fields and even became senior managers. This change took place over a long period of time and is still ongoing. At the same time, there is still strong evidence of backlash and some weakening on the part of federal government in terms of its willingness to support women's drive for equality.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Schwartz, Nanci, "'a Man's World'?: A Study Of Female Workers At Nasa's Kennedy Space C" (2004). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 239.