If you were a kid in the 1980s, you knew the name Sally Ride. A Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, Ride was America's first female astronaut and a space shuttle robotic arm operator. In 1983 she flew with fellow crew members aboard the shuttle Challenger, the same orbiter that tragically exploded after lift-off during a mission in 1986 that Ride was not a part of. Although she was married to a man until the mid-1980s, by the time of her death in 2012, Ride had been in a 27-year relationship with a female partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy.
Ride only came out as a lesbian posthumously. But that had more to do with her very private nature, according to her sister, Bear Ride, than it did with a lack of pride in being gay. Bear Ride is also a lesbian and, as an activist and an ordained Presbyterian minister, was very comfortable about being out. Shortly after her sister's passing, Rev. Ride explained her sister's decision to stay in the closet, to a certain degree, until her after her death this way:
"My sister was a very private person. Sally had a very fundamental sense of privacy, it was just her nature, because we're Norwegians, through and through. People did not know she had pancreatic cancer, this is bound to be a huge shock. For 17 months, nobody knew, and everyone does now. Her memorial fund is going to be in support of pancreatic cancer.
"Most people did not know that Sally had a wonderfully loving relationship with Tam O'Shaughnessy for 27 years. Sally never hid her relationship with Tam. They were partners, business partners in Sally Ride Science, they wrote books together, and Sally's very close friends, of course, knew of their love for each other. We consider Tam a member of our family."
Sally Ride Science at the University of California, San Diego, is quite possibly the most influential mover and shaker in the STEAM-for-girls science education movement in the nation.