Valentina Tereshkova, World's First Female Astronaut
Russian Valentina Tereshkova was a textile factory worker (although one admittedly fond of skydiving) when she was plucked from the masses and chosen to become a Russian astronaut, competing against hundreds of candidates in a rigorous selection process for a manned flight into space.
On June 16, 1963, Tereshkova piloted Vostok 6, completing 48 orbits around Earth over the course of her three-day mission. At the young age of 26, she was (and still is) the record holder for youngest female astronaut. By the time she retired in 1997, she had obtained the rank of major general in the Russian Air Force and still serves in her nation's parliament today.