Honoring the Mercury 13 Women
May 12, 2007 * UW Oshkosh Spring Commencement

Before Sally Ride, Christa McAuliffe and Eileen Collins, courageous women were setting new records and conquering new horizons. Though largely unrecognized in history, the Mercury 13 women showed their determination, strength and bravery in the Space Race with accomplishments that paved the way for generations. The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is proud to recognize the pioneering spirit of these women with honorary Doctor of Science—honoris causa—degrees.


Myrtle "K" Thompson Cagle

Bitten by the flying bug at an early age, “K” Cagle attempted to join an aeronautics class at her high school. Her mother was able to convince the principal to allow her into the class because Cagle, at age 12, had already received flight lessons from her brother. She did so well in the class that when the instructor was drafted, she stepped into the role of teacher for the remainder of the year.

Throughout her career, she completed a number of flight-related courses, earning a commercial pilot’s license, with airplane single and multi-engine land rating and an instrument rating. She became certified as flight instructor, flight instrument instructor and ground instructor. Because she holds an airframe and power plant license, she is a certified aviation mechanic as well. Cagle also is a licensed nurse.

In 1961, she received an invitation to train as an astronaut at the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque, N.M. She was working as a flight instructor in Macon, Ga., and had accumulated an impressive 4,300 hours of flying time, which was more than some of the Mercury 7 men. Cagle, 36, was a newlywed at the time.

Since she was small in stature—she was 5-feet, 2-inches tall and weighed 100 pounds—Cagle would have been an ideal candidate for space flight. Even when screening the Mercury 7 men, height and weight constraints needed to be considered due to the fuel and weight requirements of lifting a capsule.

When the Mercury 13 project was called off, she returned to Georgia to resume her role as aviation instructor and worked with the Civil Air Patrol, which aided the U.S. Air Force during times of natural disasters or other emergencies.

Download Myrtle "K" Thompson Cagle commendation (pdf)



May 8, 2007May 8, 2007May 8, 2007