Di Sally Ride avevamo parlato – per la verità in modo molto leggero – in un post di qualche tempo fa, che ieri ho riproposto, dopo essere venuto a conoscenza della sua scomparsa.
Oggi torno sull’argomento con più serietà, perché il necrologio ufficiale – pubblicato sul suo sito Sally Ride Science – mette in luce 2 aspetti della sua vita, uno poco noto e uno del tutto privato fino a ieri, che mi sembra valga la pena sottolineare:
- Dopo aver lasciato la NASA nel 1987, Sally è tornata a insegnare, prima a Stanford e poi all’UCSD (University of California San Diego, noto a noi Apple-isti della prima ora per UCSD Pascal) e nel 2001 ha fondato la propria società, Sally Ride Science, per perseguire la vera passione della sua vita: «inspiring young people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science, to become scientifically literate, and to consider pursuing careers in science and engineering.»
«The company creates innovative classroom materials, classroom programs, and professional development training for teachers.»
«Long an advocate for improved science education, Sally co-wrote seven science books for children—To Space and Back (with Sue Oakie); and Voyager; The Third Planet; The Mystery of Mars; Exploring Our Solar System; Mission Planet Earth; and Mission Save the Planet (all with Tam O’Shaughnessy). Sally also initiated and directed NASA-funded education projects designed to fuel middle school students’ fascination with science, including EarthKAM and GRAIL MoonKAM.»
Secondo il New York Times (“American Woman Who Shattered Space Ceiling“): «In 2003, Dr. Ride told The Times that stereotypes still persisted about girls and science and math — for example the idea that girls had less ability or interest in those subjects, or would be unpopular if they excelled in them. She thought peer pressure, especially in middle school, began driving girls away from the sciences, so she continued to set up science programs all over the country meant to appeal to girls — science festivals, science camps, science clubs — to help them find mentors, role models and one another. “It’s no secret that I’ve been reluctant to use my name for things,” she said. “I haven’t written my memoirs or let the television movie be made about my life. But this is something I’m very willing to put my name behind.”»
- Con grande discrezione e sottile understatement, il necrologio ci informa che Sally lascia «Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years». Nessuno, fuori dalla cerchia dei parenti e degli amici più intimi, lo sapeva, perché la discrezione e la riservatezza di Sally erano proverbiali.
Tam, che lavora alla Sally Ride Science come Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President for Content, aveva incontrato Sally su un campo da tennis quando erano entrambe ragazze:
«Sally Ride and Tam O’Shaughnessy became friends at the age of 12 when they both played tennis. While their lives took different paths, they stayed in contact over the years. Ride went to Stanford University, earned a BS, an MS, and a PhD in physics, and became the first American woman to fly in space; O’Shaughnessy became a professional tennis player and later earned a BS and an MS in biology from Georgia State University and a PhD in school psychology from the University of California–Riverside.»
Sally non aveva mai parlato della sua sessualità. Nell’articolo del New York Times già citato si dice: «Dr. Ride was known for guarding her privacy. She rejected most offers for product endorsements, memoirs and movies, and her reticence lasted to the end. […] In 1983, writing in The Washington Post, Susan Okie, a journalist and longtime friend, described Dr. Ride as elusive and enigmatic, protective of her emotions. “During college and graduate school,” Dr. Okie wrote, “I had to interrogate her to find out what was happening in her personal life.”»
La sorella di Sally, Bear Ride, ha dichiarato a BuzzFeeD (“First Female U.S. Astronaut, Sally Ride, Comes Out In Obituary“): «We consider Tam a member of the family. […] I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them. […] Sally didn’t use labels. Sally had a very fundamental sense of privacy, it was just her nature, because we’re Norwegians, through and through.»
Nel medesimo articolo, Chad Griffin, presidente della Human Rights Campaign, afferma: «For many Americans, coming out will be the hardest thing they ever do. While it’s a shame that Americans were not able to experience this aspect of Sally while alive, we should all be proud of the fact that like many LGBT Americans, she proudly served her country, had a committed and loving relationship, and lived a good life. […] The fact that Sally Ride was a lesbian will further help round out Americans’s understanding of the contributions of LGBT Americans to our country. Our love and condolences go out to her partner.»
Per effetto del DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) Tam non può essere riconosciuta erede di Sally.