How space exploration provided a new career path for women

Parish Hirasaki was not planning on being a scientist. At least, not when she first got to Duke University.

“I was sent off to college to find a husband,” Hirasaki says. “And to get a teaching degree so if god forbid anything ever happened to that husband I could work when my children were in school. So that is the era I came from. “

The year was 1963. And as Hirasaki tells it, that’s what most women did… if they had the opportunity to go to college at all. But once she reached college, Hirasaki quickly realized teaching wasn’t in the cards. She struggled with the liberal arts courses. But she had always been good at math. So she changed her major. But somewhere along the line I got interested in working in the space program,” Hirasaki says. “And thought, ‘Gee, maybe I can be an astronaut one day.’ And I think if most people back then who went to work in the space program fess up, that’s what they were thinking, too.”

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