When Mae Jemison (born 1956) was a toddler, her family moved from Alabama to Chicago. Watching NASA space missions during her childhood, Jemison dreamed of becoming an astronaut but since there were no female astronauts, her only role model was Lieutenant Uhura on the Star Trek TV show. Little did she know what the future would hold for her.
Jemison attended Stanford University at a time when she was one of only a few Black students. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts degree in African and African-American studies, she attended Cornell Medical School. Once she completed her residency program in Los Angeles, Jemison joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Africa. Returning to the US, she opened a private medical practice but her dream of becoming an astronaut never died. In 1985 she applied with NASA and in 1987 she was selected to become a NASA astronaut. After five years of training, Jemison became the first Black female astronaut in space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
Since leaving NASA in 1993, she has founded a consulting group that that encourages science, technology, and social change; taught at Dartmouth and Cornell; created an international space camp for children; and led the 100 Year Starship project through the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Another dream came true when Jemison became the first real astronaut to be on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, playing Lieutenant Palmer.
Why this stop? The Western Avenue Orange Line stop is not exactly in Jemison’s Chicago neighborhood. It’s six miles northwest of where she grew up but we definitely wanted to honor Jemison with a stop and this is the closest we could get.
Connect—Inspire a young person! Read Mae Jemison’s autobiography which she wrote specifically for children — Find Where the Wind Goes.
Women's L Project Connection On her Space Shuttle flight, Jemison carried a photo of Bessie Coleman, fellow Chicagoan and the first Black American woman to pilot a flight in the US.
Photo courtesy of NASA