Jean Hixson

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Jean Hixson (1922-1984) was a teacher, a Women Airforce Service Pilot and part of the Mercury 13. She was also the second woman to exceed Mach One in a flight over Lake Erie.

Life before the Mercury 13[edit]

Jean Hixson was born in Hoopeston, Illinois.[1][2] Hixson had always had a passion to excel at what she did. Hixson began taking flying lessons at age 16 and was able to get her pilot's license by the age of 18. After Hixson received her license, she began to train with the Women's Air force Service Pilots (WASP). During World War II Hixson flew B-25 Mitchells as an engineering test pilot. After WWII, she became a flight instructor in Akron, Ohio. After hours, she attended Akron University and received a degree in Elementary and Secondary Education.[3]

In 1957 Hixson also became the second woman to ever exceed Mach One.

Mercury 13 and sexual discrimination[edit]

The Mercury 13 was a group of women who underwent the same physical and psychological testing as male astronauts in 1959 to train for mission Mercury. These women were found to have a higher tolerance to the physical and emotional strains that would be put on them were they to go on this mission.[4] Not only were these women found to be more resistant to the strains that would placed on them, but it would have actually been less expensive to send these women to space.[citation needed] The reason for this is because the women weighed less and were smaller, meaning they needed less food and oxygen than their male counterparts.

There was later an interview with John Glenn in which the full understanding of sexism in this situation was revealed. After the Mercury 13 were disbanded, he was recorded saying in an interview, "I think this gets back to the way our social order is organized….It is just a fact. The men go off and fight the wars and fly the airplanes and come back and help design and build and test them. The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order". The fact that an astronaut was not fearful to make this statement in front of a congressional hearing shows that this was a widespread thought at the time and explains why NASA was still willing to turn down a candidate who they deemed to be the best in the group.

Life after Mercury 13[edit]

After testing in the Mercury 13 program, Hixson went to work at the Flight Simulator Techniques branch of the USAF Reserve at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.[3]

In 1982, she retired from the Air Force Reserves as a Colonel, and that same year chaired a WASP reunion.

In 1983 she completed 30 years of service with the Akron (Ohio) School system.

Jean died of cancer at age 62 on September 21, 1984. [5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jean Hixson, 1922-1984 | Akron Women's History". Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  2. ^ "Akron teacher, pilot Jean Hixson joined pioneering group of women: Women's History Month". Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  3. ^ a b "Mercury 13 - the women of the Mercury Era".
  4. ^ Madrigal, Alexis C (July 24, 2012). "The Women Who Would Have Been Sally Ride". Atlantic.
  5. ^ "Jean Hixson - Biographies of Astronaut and Cosmonaut Candidates".