Gendering multi-voiced histories of the North American space industry: The GMRD white women

Ruel, Stefanie; Mills, Albert J. and Helms MIlls, Jean (2019). Gendering multi-voiced histories of the North American space industry: The GMRD white women. Journal of Management History, 25(4) pp. 464–492.



Purpose - We focus, in this study, on ‘writing women into ‘history’’ embracing the notion of cisgender and ethnicity in relation to the ‘historic turn’. As such, we bring forward the stories of the United States Pan American Airway’s Guided Missile Range Division (GMRD), and the White women who worked there. We ask what has a Cold War U.S. missile division to tell us about present and future gendered relationships in the North American space industry?
Methodology - We apply Foucault’s technology of lamination, a form of critical discourse analysis, to both narrative texts and photographic images in the GMRD’s in-house newsletter, the Clipper, dating from 1964 until the end of 1967. We meld an autoethnography to this technique, providing space for the first author to share her experiences within the contemporary space industry in relation to the GMRD White women experiences.
Findings - We surface, in applying this combined methodology, a story about White women’s historical, present, and future cisgender social reality in the North American space industry. We are contributing then to a multi-voiced, cisgender/ethnic ‘historic turn’ that, to date, is focused on White men alone in the U.S. race to the moon.
Social Implications - The social implication of this study lies in challenging perceptions of the masculinist-gendering of the past by bringing forward tales of, and by, women. This study also brings a White woman’s voice forward, within a contemporary North American space industry organization.
Originality/Value - We are making a three-fold contribution to this special issue and to our understandings of gendered/ethnic multi-voiced histories. We untangle the mid-Cold War phase from the essentialized Cold War era. We recreate multi-voiced histories of White women within the North American space industry, while adding an important contemporary voice. We also present a novel methodology, that combines the technology of lamination with autoethnography, to provide a gateway to recognizing the impact of multi-voiced histories onto contemporary and future gendered/ethnic relationships.

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