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.


Jan Dietrich

Jan Dietrich and her twin sister, Marion, did most everything together. The sisters graduated from the University of California-Berkley in 1949. They were 34 years old when Dr. Lovelace invited them both to begin astronaut training in Albuquerque, N.M.

Prior to joining the Mercury 13, Dietrich was a flight instructor and chief pilot for a flight school as well as a corporate pilot for a construction company in California. By 1961, she had amassed a remarkable 8,000 hours of flying time.

In January 1961, she became the second woman, after Jerrie Cobb, to successfully pass the Lovelace medical tests for astronaut viability. Because Dietrich knew her sister would be among the next candidates, she sent her letters containing practical tips, such as “come with a little extra weight; you will miss one or two meals every day” and “try not to have your color portrait taken the day they rub clay all over your face for the electroencephalogram.”

Dietrich was one of the first women in the U.S. to obtain the highest FAA license, the airline transport license. Today, she lives near San Francisco.

Download Jan Dietrich commendation (pdf)