The world knew Sally Ride as a pioneer for women in science after she became the first American woman to go into space in 1983. What the world didn’t know is that Ride spent the last 27 years of her life in a relationship with another woman.
Ride (pictured left) passed away this week at age 61 after a battle with pancreatic cancer and now more is coming out about her accomplished partner Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy (pictured right), a professor emerita at San Diego State University and chief operating officer and executive vice president of Ride’s foundation, Sally Ride Science, according to the International Business Times.
An obituary statement from Sally Ride Science read that Ride was “survived by O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years,” marking the first time their relationship was made public. In 2009, an interview with Ride and O’Shaughnessy published on Sally Ride Science referred to the women as “good friends” who met when they were 12 years old.
Like Ride, O’Shaughnessy was also interested in science from an early age. She earned bachelors and masters degrees in biology from Georgia State University, taught college biology and eventually earned a doctorate degree in school psychology from the University of California, Riverside.
She has written nine children’s science books and helped found Sally Ride Science “because of her long-standing commitment to science education and her recognition of the importance of supporting girls' interests in science," according to the foundation’s website.
According to a Buzzfeed interview with Bear Ride, her sister Sally was a private person, but she didn’t hide her relationship from her family and it was never a source of controversy. Regarding her sister’s sexual orientation, Bear said Sally didn’t use labels.
“I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them," Bear said.
Photo via the American Library Association.