Lady Daredevils: American Women Flyers between the World Wars

Saturday, January 8, 2011
Ballroom C (Hynes Convention Center)
Barbara Ganson , Florida Atlantic University, Davie, FL
The year 2010 represents the centennial of flight for women flying controllable, powered aircraft, that is, airplanes in the United States.   In September 1910 Blanche Stuart Scott and Dr. Bessica Raische soloed airplanes for the first time.   The year 2011 represents the one hundredth anniversary since the first U.S. women became licensed women pilots.   Harriet Quimby and Matilde Moisant became the first U.S. licensed women pilots in that year.   To celebrate these important historic events, I will present a poster highlighting women aviators' achievements in the early twentieth century, with emphasis on the period between the world wars.    I would provide a poster highlighting the major conclusions from my book manuscript, Lady Daredevils: American Women Flyers Between the World Wars, which is under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press.   I will describe and analyze how women aviators in the United States established world aviation records of their own beginning in 1930, competed in the most prestigious air races in the country, the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race, winning in 1936 and 1938, sought to have careers in the aviation industry, designed new flying fashions, managed and operated their own airports, worked sucessfully in aircraft sales and in demonstrating aircraft, as well as laid the foundation for Flight Nurse.   Although much attention has been given to Amelia Earhart, there were several hundreds of women flying airplanes in the United States following Lindbergh's historic nonstop solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927.  I will discuss their motivations to fly, ability to gain employment in the male-dominated industry, compete against male competitors in racing events, and helped convince a distrusting public that airplanes were safe following the barnstorming years.  What to wear while flying was also a concern of many of these women aviators who drew inspiration from male pilots for their clothing styles. 

To illustrate many major points, I will use a power poing presentation using illustrations I have gathered at the archives and libraries at the National Air and Space Museum, International Women's Air and Space Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, University of Wyoming, Wichita State University, San Diego Aerospace Museum, and the University of Texas at Dallas.  I will post statistical tables from the manuscript, which note the number of licensed of women pilots by rating and state, list the type of different jobs they performed, as well as the number of fatalities and accidents from 1938 and 1939, two years for which there is available data.  According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, women flyers tended to be safer pilots than their male counterparts based on studies of aircraft accidents and incidents over several decades.  Finally, I will discuss Amelia Earhart's contributions to aviation and some of the problems of her world flight.  The Hollywood film, Amelia, offers a wonderful opportunity to engage an audience with questions about how the Hollywood film portrayed the life of America's most visible woman aviator.  In my role as historian, I will sort out historical fact from Hollywood fiction.

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