WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

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Woman of the Week – Nichelle Nichols

Posted October 22, 2018 4:30 PM by lmno24

You probably know her as Lieutenant Uhura on Stark Trek, but Nichelle Nichols has done much more than star on a television show. She’s done a lot of work with NASA to recruit women and ethnic minorities.

She was born in a town outside Chicago. As a child, she made her acting debut in Kicks and Co, a musical by Oscar Brown. Though it was not as successful as expected, it was a good start. She took part in numerous other roles throughout her teens and 20s. Her most notable was being a backup singer for Duke Ellington at 16.

She made her film debut dancing alongside Sammy Davis Jr. in Porgy and Bess in 1959. A few years later, she was selected for a guest role on The Lieutenant which led to her role on Star Trek in 1966.

On Star Trek, she was one of the first black women to be on a television show portraying a character other than a servant. She was tempted to leave the show to pursue Broadway roles, but she had a conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that changed her mind. He told her not to give up because she was an inspiration to black children and young women.

After Star Trek was cancelled, she started volunteering with a special project at NASA to recruit females and minorities to work for the agency. She started out by affiliating NASA with her company, Women in Motion.

The program was, overall, very successful. Among those recruited were Mae Carol Jemison, the first black female astronaut, Dr. Sally Ride, Dr. Judith Resnik and Dr. Ronald McNair, who both went to space before their untimely deaths aboard the Challenger in 1986.

Nichols has served since the mid-1980s on the board of governors of the National Space Society, a nonprofit, educational space advocacy organization. She remains an enthusiastic advocate for space exploration.

In 2015, she flew on NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Boeing 747SP, which analyzed the atmospheres of Mars and Saturn. She has also been a special guest at several NASA events including takeoffs and landings. Notably, she and her Star Trek cast mates were present for the unveiling of the first space shuttle, Enterprise in 1976.

She has received numerous awards and honors over the years. In 2016, she received The Life Career Award, from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. She is 85 and lives in California. Until a few years ago, she continued making public appearances and speeches. Unfortunately, she suffers from dementia and in May, her son announced legal documents had been filed to give her children control of her estate.

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#1

Re: Woman of the Week – Nichelle Nichols

10/22/2018 6:07 PM

She is one classy woman.

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#2
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Re: Woman of the Week – Nichelle Nichols

10/23/2018 5:29 AM

I will absolutely 2nd that.

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#3
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Re: Woman of the Week – Nichelle Nichols

10/23/2018 1:27 PM

It's a crying shame that she is suffering with dementia. That is one cruel disease for both the afflicted and affected. My thoughts are with her and her family and loved ones.

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#4

Re: Woman of the Week – Nichelle Nichols

10/24/2018 10:09 AM

Author of the article should probably look to reach a level of achievement that Nichelle Nichols earned, both for mis-spells and identifying Sally Ride as an Astronaut (race).

As a woman (of any color) Sally Ride was also a high achiever as she paid attention to details.

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#5
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Re: Woman of the Week – Nichelle Nichols

10/24/2018 10:24 AM

Thank you for pointing that error out. It has been fixed.

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