Thirteen female astronauts will be honored by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh May 12 with honorary doctoral science degrees. The women of the 1961 Mercury 13 project secretly completed extensive physical and psychological training for NASA only to receive telegrams telling them not to come.

“The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is proud to recognize the accomplishments of the Mercury 13 women, whose drive and determination paved the way for the generations that followed,” said University Chancellor Richard H. Wells in a press release. Wells said the women’s pioneering spirit gelled with the university’s history of innovation and protecting women’s rights.

The women are now in their late-60s to mid-80s. It will be the first time they have been honored as a group. The women never made it into space, and instead Sally K. Ride was the first U.S. woman to make the trip in 1983 as a crew member on the Challenger space shuttle.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill May 3 that will expand the federal hate crime categories to include violent attacks against people targeted because of gender. The legislation, which passed 237-180, also includes attacks against lesbians and gays and would make it easier for law enforcement to prosecute bias-motivated attacks. Similar legislation is going through the Senate despite threatened vetoes from the White House.
  • The House also approved a nonbinding resolution May 1 to address the unsolved murders of more than 2,000 women and girls in Guatemala since 2001. The measure, authored by Rep. Hilda L. Solis, D-Calif., condemns the murders and encourages the government of Guatemala to recognize domestic violence as a crime and respond by investigating these crimes. It also asks the secretary of state to develop a plan to address the growing problem of violence against women in Latin America.
  • A typical stay-at-home mother works the equivalent of a $138,095 salary, Reuters reported May 2. A study from Waltham, Mass.-based Salary.com reflected a 3 percent increase in the value of mother’s work from last year and is based on online responses from 40,000 mothers. The salary figure was derived by considering 10 jobs performed by mothers, including van driver, janitor and chief executive officer, and a 92-hour work week with 40 hours at base pay and 52 hours overtime.
  • An organization of female lawyers is asking Uganda’s Constitutional Court to formally abolish genital mutilation, according to an April 26 article from the news Web site allAfrica.com. The custom is still practiced by several tribes, and advocacy group Law and Advocacy for Women in Africa say it should be abolished because it is a form of torture. The organization recently helped abolish a discriminatory adultery law.
  • Cangleska Inc., an organization devoted to protecting Native American women from domestic violence, opened a new $1.25 million shelter May 4. The shelter, which will house 36 women and children, sits on a new nine-acre complex on the Pine Ridge reservation in Kyle, S.D. May 4 also marked the 10-year anniversary of the opening of Cangleska’s first women’s shelter on the Oglala Sioux reservation.
  • An activist has embarked on a 15-week cross-country bicycle trip to raise awareness for reproductive rights. Nora Dye is biking across the country and meeting with advocates, educators and others involved in health care and female sexuality, and will write about people she meets on her blog.
  • The Grand Victoria Foundation–established by the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Ill.–announced May 2 that it will commit $10 million to two Chicago groups working for economic, educational and environmental change. The two $5 million grants will go to the Delta Institute and Women Employed. Delta Institute creates economic models that will improve environmental quality and benefit disadvantaged communities. Women Employed acts as an advocate for working women’s economic advancement and opportunity.
  • Breastfeeding and fatty acids can help new mothers fight depression, according to an article in the March edition of the International Breastfeeding Journal. University of New Hampshire researcher Kathleen Kendall-Tacket said breastfeeding protects mothers because it lowers stress levels. The good fats in Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, defending against physical and psychological stressors that increase inflammation.
  • World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz affirmed that he will not make changes to the bank’s policy on reproductive health. Leaked documents earlier this month indicated that the bank’s managing director, Juan Jose Daboub, had deleted all references to family planning in a bank strategy being prepared for Madagascar. Wolfowitz said the policy on health is an important part of the bank’s development agenda.

For more information:

NASA, Lovelace’s Women in Space Program:

Nora Dye, Wanderlust With Rhonda:

Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center:

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Randall Tobias, former director of U.S. foreign assistance and administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, recently retired after implications he was involved in prostitution. In his work for USAID, Tobias was the chief enforcer of the Bush administration’s anti-prostitution pledge, Bloomberg reported May 4.

The pledge requires international organizations that receive U.S. foreign aid to denounce prostitution as a condition for receiving funding. Opponents say the policy inhibits HIV-AIDS prevention efforts because it can prevent groups from working with sex workers, who are a key target in prevention tactics and education efforts.

“The real hypocrisy here is that people who need health care and services, and who need their rights to be protected, are being denounced by those whose stated mission is to help them,” the Sex Workers Project of the New York-based Urban Justice Center said in a press release.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Australian Senator Bill Heffernan said Labor Party deputy leader Julia Gillard is unfit to govern because she has no children, the BBC reported May 2. Repeating comments he initially made last year, Heffernan said Gillard cannot understand the public because she is childless. He has since apologized. Gillard said the remarks were offensive to her and Australian women in general.
  • A pregnant 17-year-old in Ireland began a court battle May 1 to be allowed to travel to England for an abortion. The woman is four months pregnant and in the care of Ireland’s Health Service Executive, which so far has not allowed her to travel outside for an abortion. Doctors say the fetus has a rare brain condition and will not live more than three days after birth. Abortion is illegal in the country except for a direct threat to the woman’s health, which includes risk of suicide.
  • About 50 percent more women per decade than men have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis since 1940, Medical News Today reported April 30. The ratio of women to men with MS is about 4 to 1, according to the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis, compared to 2 to 1 in 1940. Researchers are unable to study the hike and suggest more research is needed.

Alison Bowen is a New York-based reporter with Women’s eNews.

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