The Book Of Jezebel: J Is For Jemison, Mae

As you may have heard, on October 22nd we'll be publishing our first book, a 300-page, hardcover, illustrated encyclopedia called The Book of Jezebel. In honor of this milestone —which took many years and dozens of contributors to execute—we'll be posting one entry from the book a day, starting with "A" and continuing on through to "Z." Although the book itself has already been printed — it's gorgeous — questions, additions, annotations and suggestions on the entries that appear online are welcomed and encouraged.

Jemison, Mae (1956-)

Physician. Dancer. Astronaut. Enrolled in Stanford University when she was just sixteen years old, where she received degrees in Afro-American studies and chemical engineering. Her courses in the latter presented a challenge. "Some professors would just pretend I wasn't there," she told the New York Times in 2000. "I would ask a question and a professor would act as if it was just so dumb, the dumbest question he had ever heard. Then, when a white guy would ask the same question, the professor would say, 'That's a very astute observation.'" In September 1992, Jemison became the first African-American woman in space when she traveled aboard the space shuttle Endeavour as a science mission specialist. (The mission, STS-47, was devoted to experiments in the life and material sciences, including studies of weightlessness and motion sickness.) "I always assumed I'd go into space," the Arkansas-born Jemison told an audience at Denison University in 2004. Applying to be an astronaut, she once said, was preferable to "waiting around in a cornfield, waiting for ET to pick me up or something."

(Illustration by Sarah Glidden for the Book of Jezebel.)