Amelia and Elinor
This post is made from statements I found the book Aviatrix by pioneer pilot Elinor Smith. Of course, some of it is truly one-sided. Recently I have discovered these same or similar words as stated here.
Amelia was a wonderful woman, a beacon for women pilots. She encouraged women to become all that they could be. But she wasn’t the greatest pilot in the world.
Unfortunately, the myth of Amelia has continued forever. Her fame has continued because of her disappearance. If she hadn’t disappeared she wouldn’t be as famous as she was today.
Also her fame as being the first women to fly over the entire Atlantic Ocean increased her adulation from the public.
This post is not written to disparage Amelia. It is written to tell the back-story about Amelia and her rival Elinor Smith.
I am not writing to criticize Amelia or Elinor. Realize that I admire both women and I want to tell the truth about these unique women. I will try to tell the intrigue that most people don’t know about either of these women. I will list these statements as I found them. Most of these facts are not widely known.
George talked Elinor into dropping out Powder Puff Derby. This was the most important race because it was the first all women air race.
George offered Elinor $75 per week to fly Amelia around the country for her speaking engagements and promotional tours. When photographers would take pictures Elinor was to stand to the side as if Amelia was flying the plane.
When Amelia got out of the plane she was dressed in a clean dress and looked immaculate so she really wasn’t dressed to fly. George kept Amelia in the spotlight by deception.
Elinor turned down Georges offer. It was so disgusting. Amelia didn’t know about this offer or any other way George tried to keep Elinor out of the spotlight. Amelia told Elinor that he would do anything he needed to make sure that she that Amelia remained the top woman pilot.
George promoted Amelia as Lady Lindy. Amelia was tall and slim like Lindbergh and he thought that he could promote her as the female counterpart to Lindy. George thought that Lady Lindy was a perfect promotion.
Amelia’s first claim to fame was not exactly true because of George’s manipulation. She according to George was the first women to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. Only part of that statement is true. She did fly across the ocean but only as a passenger. She did not fly the plane. When she arrived in France. She was greeted like a movie star. The public overlooked the fact that she didn’t fly the plane. Amelia didn’t know what to think. She tried to set the enormous crowd that she was just a passenger and just sat there “like a bag of potatoes.” She didn’t want the adoration. But George sure did. He felt he had a winner with Amelia.
Amelia made $500 each week for her talks.
Elinor didn’t want to be Amelia but she did think she was a brave and courageous woman.
Elinor hoped that George would promote her like Amelia. That never happened. He wanted to use Eleanor’s ability as a pilot to help Amelia get more speaking engagements.
He thought Amelia should never smile for the camera because she had a space between her teeth. Everything was done for publicity.
George wanted Elinor to endorse a line of casual dresses for women to wear when they flew. Elinor turned her down because she was wore practical clothes when she flew. Elinor didn’t want to wear clothes that she would only get grease and dirt on Elinor usually wore her brother’s knickers, his old shirt, a windbreaker, argyle socks, and worn out sneakers.
Elinor felt that because she flew over the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic that she should wear clothes she could quickly get out of if she needed to in case she had crashed into the water. Practical clothes would be easier to swim home.
Amelia wanted the money for endorsements so that she could buy more powerful planes and enter more races. Truthfully, it was George who insisted that Amelia do many endorsements and Amelia felt she had to follow along. That’s why I call George Amelia’s Puppeteer.
Also, Elinor would not endorse products that she didn’t use or believe in. She needed the money but she just couldn’t commit to being involved in things that weren’t right for her.
Elinor had $15,000 worth of endorsements of her own. Not as many as Amelia but after her flight under the bridges she was in many newsreels and even had her pictures on buses.
Elinor thought Amelia was warm and friendly and not shy and retiring like George portrayed her. He also wouldn’t let the press Amelia know that she was 30 years old. He felt that the younger she was the public would think that she was more unique. He didn’t respect Elinor because she was too young to be taken seriously.
One time Amelia and Elinor went up in a very powerful plane. Elinor asked Amelia if she’d like to take over the controls. Amelia couldn’t handle it and let Elinor take control again. Amelia was very embarrassed and it seemed to Elinor that Amelia was not the experienced pilot that George said.
Elinor realized that Amelia had not flown and landed on her own. It turned out that another pilot who George said was her mechanic was really landed the plane for Amelia. When
Amelia left the plane she looked like a picture, perfectly dressed and had no dirt or grease stains anywhere. She looked immaculate. This proved that George was perpetrating a hoax on the reporters and public. It also proved to Elinor that George was a liar. Amelia went along with this deception because George told her what to do and she followed along.
This is the end of part one of the friendly rivalry between Amelia and Elinor. Look for part two on Saturday. I hope you enjoy both parts.
Elinor really liked Amelia and encouraged her to take a refresher pilots course in order to increase her skills. Elinor was pleased that she did this in private at her parents Rye, N.Y. estate.
George spread rumors that I was very difficult to work with and that aviation manufactures shouldn’t hire me to promote their planes. He did everything to stop me from finding a way to earn money for my flights.
In 1929 Amelia and other women pilots started a group to support each other in aviation. Elinor never joined because she felt that women at that time shouldn’t fly and compete against men in the big time races. Elinor thought that women should fly the smaller and not as heavy planes.
Amelia had a difficult time earning her transport license. This was the highest rating that you could receive. Elinor earned hers at age 17. George said that Amelia was so competent that she didn’t even need to take the written or physical test.
Elinor wanted to buy a powerful plane by a well-known manufacturer named Bellanca. She needed this plane to compete in a race. Mr. Bellanca promised her plane to Elinor. Unfortunately, George talked Bellanca to let Amelia buy the plane. This would ultimately cause Elinor to drop out of the race. George didn’t allow anyone to question if Amelia was really the pilot in some races and appearances. In actually, it was somewhat known that someone else, possibly her mechanic was the pilot not Amelia. Some reporters noticed on several occasions that she was supposed to be the pilot she left the plane perfectly dressed. No oil or dirt on her clothes. Even her hair was perfect. It was not her that made the “perfect landing because she wasn’t really flying or landing the plane.
If George was asked about Amelia’s ability he just said that Amelia was too important to answer that question. He felt that he didn’t have to convince anyone.
Elinor believed Amelia that she didn’t know anything about George’s attitude toward her. Elinor told Amelia that she was pushed out of races and events because he only wanted Amelia to be the top pilot. Elinor told Amelia that George spread rumors that she was too difficult to work with and that manufacturers should stay away from her and only work with Amelia. Amelia said that George never told her anything about his push to keep Elinor out of the money races.
Few know that Amelia did poorly in the Cleveland Air Races. She only finished 3rd. She was flying the fastest ship but she really didn’t know how to control it. She didn’t have enough skills to properly fly this large plane. She only received her solo license 5 months before the race and didn’t have the expertise to properly pilot the plane. This would have surprised the general public if they knew the truth about Amelia’s abilities. To the public she was their Lady Lindy and they wouldn’t believe their hero was anything but the best woman pilot. Truthfully, it was George who created this illusion.
George blamed the manufacturer not Amelia’s ability. He wasn’t going to let the press criticize Amelia. She was his creation and nothing was going to interfere with his work.
Amelia and the Navy? The Navy Air Races in 19 in Anacostia, Maryland were a very important event in aviation. Amelia was the aviation announcer for this race. Add to power point p.244-248
Amelia did not like to make speeches but she needed to do that to make money. She didn’t want to appear in oil stained clothes and she didn’t want to make speeches. Palmer wanted her to write about her adventures. She wrote several books that were well received. She just loved to fly the rest was annoying.
This the story of Amelia as I see it. As I said I admire both women. I just think that Elinor should have been more admired. George Palmer came in between Elinor becoming the icon that Amelia became. Everyone knows Amelia but few people know of Elinor. I hope that many people will read Elinor’s book “Aviatrix” and learn more about this fabulous women.
The book is available at most libraries and Amazon. Find out the real truth about these women.