Parents' Guide to

Woman in Motion

By John Sooja, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Docu about role model Nichelle Nichols inspires, delights.

Movie NR 2019 105 minutes
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The life of Nichelle Nichols is incredible and inspiring. Woman in Motion serves as a wonderful example of how one person can change the world. Nichols wanted to be the first Black American ballerina, but ended up dancing and singing jazz and briefly for Duke Ellington's band after he requested her specifically. Next, after Nichols worked for Gene Roddenberry's The Lieutenant (1963), in which she plays the wife of a Black marine, Roddenberry wanted to cast Nichols in a new show he was working on that would "feature all races," having to come up with an idea for a show that would have reason for such a diverse cast (to get it past the network executives). After all, NBC decided to not air the episode of The Lieutenant that features Nichols because they deemed it too incendiary. Roddenberry's new show was called Star Trek. Soon, Nichols's role on the show was quickly diminished. Nichols was going to quit, but Martin Luther King Jr. told her that Star Trek was the only television show he allowed his kids to watch. He told her how influential and important it was for her to even just be on television in a powerful role, even if the role wasn't the strongest. After that, Nichols decided to continue and did so until the show's cancellation in 1969.

The film then launches into the incredible work Nichols did for and with NASA, beginning in 1977. Upon visiting the National Institute of Sciences and wondering "where are my people?" Nichols set about to change things. Nichols convinced NASA (and the U.S. military that historically funneled pilots into NASA) to change their recruitment and acceptance policies, even threatening lawsuits if they didn't begin training women and people of color. NASA's new Space Shuttle Program (which would last from 1981-2011) would begin training their initial pilot class in 1978, but in 8 months of recruitment, they had only received 1,500 applications total, and only 100 were from women, and only 35 from people of color. NASA thought they had specifically publicized that they were open to women and people of color applying, but Nichols told them that it didn't work because "none of us believe you." After NASA hired Nichols's company, "Women in Motion," to recruit for the Space Shuttle Program, in 4 months NASA received over 8,000 applications, 1,650 from women, 1,000 from people of color. Many credit Nichols for their careers, including Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, and the first Black woman astronaut and Black woman in space, Mae Jemison. Nichols continued working for NASA over the years and still remains deeply close with the organization. Further, Nichols is acknowledged for creating the first STEM education company with "Women in Motion." Woman in Motion is an inspiring documentary full of positivity, triumph, and great role models.

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