In just one lifetime you can witness the reality of race-restricted use of public facilities to the possibility of instant, virtual world travel with just the use of your fingertips. Or the existence of wide spread life threatening illness to the majority eradication of such illnesses. One could witness the revolution of the right for all sexes to vote to the possibility of a woman for President.
Of course there are limits for anyone at a given time in their life. Whether these limits are real or perceived they none the less can be a roadblock for personal or societal progress. For some brave souls, like Mae Jemison, such realities are just not part of their world.
Many kids dream of becoming an astronaut or dancer, even fewer have the determination and will to make both happen.
Mae, who dreamed of being a dancer at a young age, also had aspirations to be a doctor. So when the decision of whether she should further her education in dance or pursue a medical career she took the advice of her mother, who said,
"you can always dance as a doctor but you can't doctor as a dancer".
So at the age of 16 she attended Stanford University to pursue a medical career.
With her young and curious nature she participated in a vast spectrum of activities at college, including choreographing dance steps to a musical, serving as head of the University's Black Students Union and breaking the strong white, male stereo types of the male dominated engineering department. Not only was it challenging to be a woman in engineering but as an underage African American she admits she had to plow her way through her undergraduate years with spirited grit and determination.
After receiving her Doctorate at Cornell Medical College Mae's altruistic nature led her to Liberia and Sierra Leone where she served as a Medical Officer with the Peace Corps for 2 years.
Although Mae says she never questioned her dream to one day travel to outer space, it wasn't until the flight of NASA's own Sally Ride, that she felt it was truly a possibility.---With all previous flights being all male.
So she applied to the astronaut program. And her dreams could have been halted due to the crash of the Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986 canceling the acceptance of more candidates into the program, had she not had the persistence to once again reapply in 1987.
Out of 2,000 applicants she was one of 15 accepted into the program.
Jemison's mission to space was in 1992 on Space Shuttle Endeavour, where she conducted helpful research on bone cells, weightlessness and motion sickness. She contributed much to the NASA program before resigning in 1993. She is currently a professor for Cornell University and runs her company, Jemison Group, that develops science and technology for daily life. She has also dedicated her life to providing opportunities for young kids especially of minorities to explore the sciences.
Developed from her parent's encouraging teaching methods, Jemison also started a foundation called The Earth We Share (TEWS) that challenges kids 12-16 to create their own solutions to global problems.
Mae Jemison's love of learning has been a great driving force behind her life's legacy.
The reality of it was, that a black girl from Alabama born in the late 50's had a slim chance of becoming a medical doctor, let alone becoming an astronaut.
Yet Mae Jemison didn't see life with a sky full of limits, she saw life as a sky waiting to be traversed.
So no matter how this generation or any generation may try and frame you and your life just know that all things are possible. All things.
Mae Jemison truly is a woman worth knowing. Which is why we've named one of our pieces after her. Now each time you get your little girl dressed in her Mae, you can tell her that her possibilities are as endless as the universe. Because they truly are.
Click the picture to shop the Mae dress.
*These facts and tidbits can be found in Jemison's memoir, Find Where the Wind Goes (2001) and also in "Woman in the News; A Determined Breaker of Boundaries – Mae Carol Jemison". The New York Times. September 13, 1992.