Astronaut, Surgeon, Revelation


Sally Ride
May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012

Doctor James Barry
c. 1789 or 1799 – July 26, 1865



Sally Ride, 1984, from NASA bio

As the first U. S. woman in space, Sally Ride broke much more than a glass ceiling and became a symbol of the strength and courage of women and a role model for young girls.  After she left the space program she continued to encourage interest in science, math and space for young people.  Though she had become a public figure, she was a private person who valued her personal life as her own and refused endorsements.  She chose to reveal in her obituary that she had shared almost thirty years with her partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy.



Portrait of Doctor James Barry, circa 1813-1816, via Wikapedia

I learned about Dr. James Barry through a recent post from Loren Rhoad’s blog, Cemetery Travel:  Adventures in Graveyards Around the World.  She had done a post on Kensal Green Cemetery  in London where he is buried.  Check out her blog if you like old cemeteries.

A few days later I stumbled upon another blog, The Silver Voice, and found an excellent post from last year about Dr. Barry, Margaret Ann Bulkley:  The extraordinary Doctor James Barry.  Read that post if you want more of the fascinating details about this amazing life.

Briefly, Dr. James Barry was a renowned  British surgeon who joined the military and practiced in England and throughout the British Empire.  When he died he instructed that there was to be no post-mortem.  Yet when his body was to be prepared for burial, it was discovered  that Dr. Barry was a woman, MARGARET ANN BULKLEY.  The discovery was not made public until after the burial.  The British military was stunned.  In those days  women were not allowed to study to become physicians.  So in order to get into medical school she disguised herself as a man.  Circumstances forced her to continue this charade until her death at around age seventy.


Two extraordinary women chose to keep their sexuality private until their death in order to maintain the career each had chosen.   Bulkley started out with a secret in order to achieve her goal of becoming a physician when that privilege was denied to women.  Ride chose to not to go public with  her private relationship, not in order to attain her dreams, but apparently to avoid controversy which might diminish achievements or the space programs.

Today there are no barriers to women becoming physicians in any field of medicine they choose.  Perhaps in the future sexual choices will not matter either.

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In November my husband and I spent several days in the French Quarter in New Orleans.  We had not been back since Hurricane Katrina, so it was good to see that the city and people had made a comeback despite a killer storm. 

One morning we took the St. Charles Avenue streetcar to the Garden District. You can ride one way for $1.25 or buy a one-day pass for $3.00 good also on the other streetcars,  Canal Streetcar and Riverfront Streetcar.  On the  ride we encounter locals utilizing the public transportation as well as other tourists.  There were a few unusual riders:  Santa, a nun in a purple habit and matching Mardi Gras beads, a man in red tights and cape.   The conductors are helpful and friendly to everyone! 

We departed the streetcar at Washington Avenue and walked left for one block on Prytania Street and stopped at the Garden District Book Store.  It is located inside The Rink which is just what it sounds like – an old skating rink (buildt in the 1880s) which now houses the book store, a coffee shop and other small retail shops.  The day we stopped in we just missed a book signing by Walter Isaacson,author of Steve Jobs.

Garden District Book Shop

From there we took a walking tour of many lovely homes.  It was like walking back in time as we strolled the tree-lined streets as we admired the old homes which were well-maintained and presented various architectural styles.  Most of them were built in the 1840s when cotton and sugar cane produced wealth for the landowners.  The area reflects mainly the American influence as opposed the  influence of the French and Spanish of the early settlers of the Vieux Carre’. It was once was a separate city.  Today individuals such as Anne Rice, Nicholas Cage and Sandra Bullock have at one time maintained homes there. My favorite was one with a huge corner solarium.

We ended up our walking tour at the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 near where we started from across from The Rink.   Established in 1833, this “city of the dead” is one of the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans.  The raised tombs are, of course, because it is below sea level.  The site has been featured in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.

There I found that a possible distant relative was buried.  He was Wheler Harvill.  He apparently came to New Orleans and married a widow.  He must have been accepted because they allowed him to be buried in the family tomb.  His father, Bon Harvill, came from North Carolina so he may indeed be a distant, distant relative.  There must be a story there so I will do more research! 

At the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

Our final stop was The Rink where we  had coffee at Still Perkin’ before we caught the St. Charles back to the French Quarter for another stop at Harrah’s!