Date of Award

January 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Deborah Worley


Women are underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields and at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Women’s underrepresentation in these fields is largely due to the countless barriers they face at K-12 levels, in higher education environments, and in the workforce. This historical analysis explored the academic and professional journey of a woman who persisted through these systemic and structural barriers, Ms. Pearl Irma Young.Through this research, I examined Ms. Young’s experiences in higher education, at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and at NASA. To do so required robust data collection of archival resources, as well as a thorough analysis rooted in critical feminist perspectives. The primary source of data for this research was the Pearl Young Papers housed at the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections in the Chester Fritz Library at the University of North Dakota. Archival data was also gathered from university libraries, NASA center archives, historical societies, the Library of Congress, the National Personnel Records Center, and personal collections. I applied critical feminist perspectives in my historical analysis, which revealed the existence of barriers across higher education and at the NACA/NASA for Ms. Young. Despite the barriers she faced throughout her career as a woman in STEM, Ms. Young persisted. And she did so through acts of advocacy, connectedness with friends and colleagues, and in remaining true to her authentic self.