Gendered Space: Emerging Frames in NASA Public Relations and Mainstream Media Representation, 1958-1986

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Wilds, Helen
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Middle Tennessee State University
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was founded October 1, 1958, and has been the subject of research, news and popular culture since its inception. Recent films such as Hidden Figures (2016) and Mercury 13 (2018) have given credence to the contributions of women to the space agency. This increased attention challenges the long-held image of the 1960's astronaut-hero, steeped in robust masculinity and military pride. This masculine image, perpetuated by the hegemonic ideal of postwar heroism and nationalism, characterizes our collective memory of NASA at mid-century. While popular culture has increased the visibility of NASA women’s histories, little research has been done specifically focusing on women’s media representation throughout NASA’s history. Using frame theory, this thesis examines the historical representation of women employed by NASA, both in the agency’s own public relations efforts and the mainstream news, to discover the ways NASA women's media representation changed over time in response to internal changes and shifting roles at NASA and larger external factors, such as the women’s liberation movement.