June 16, 1963: Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space.
Two years after Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, fellow cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, launched on the Vostok 6 spaceflight, became the first woman to do so. Prior to her recruitment as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova was an amateur parachutist, the daughter of a tractor driver and a textile worker (if anything, her humble background made her an even more qualified candidate to represent the women of the Soviet space program).
Tereshkova was relatively young when she ventured into space; at twenty-six, she was exactly ten years younger than the Mercury Seven’s youngest astronaut, Gordon Cooper. After several months of intensive and secretive training, she was nominated and confirmed by Nikita Khrushchev himself to become the first woman in space, and she did so flawlessly on June 16, 1963. She remained in orbit for nearly three days, performing the same tasks as her male counterparts (collecting photographic information, manning her craft), before returning to Earth on June 19. Tereshkova made no further spaceflights after her milestone first, and nearly two decades passed before the Soviet Union ever launched another woman into space. Despite the brevity of her space career, she was not forgotten in her country and received several awards and decorations for her accomplishments - almost immediately after her successful return from space, Tereshkova received the title of “Hero of the Soviet Union”, which was awarded for “heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society”.
Other links: How Valentina Tereshkova’s spaceflight worked