Gladys O’Donnell

Many of the pilots of the Powder Puff Derby married men who were pilots. Many of them were in the first world war and then became barnstormers. Gladys and her husband Lloyd O’Donnell was a pilot in World War 1 and still wanted to fly. Gladys didn’t want to keep flying because she had two children and was so afraid that Loyd would be killed. Many other pilots had been killed doing dangerous stunts in the air. After Lindbergh’s flight she caught the flying bug. She took lessons from her husband and they formed the O’Donnell Flying Show. They continued this to earn a living.  The flying circuses important in the era between the two world wars. World War 1 was over and pilots still wanted to fly so they formed these flying circuses to make a living “Barnstorming.” The era of barnstorming passed. The government thought barnstorming was too dangerous so it was outlawed.

Achievements and Records:

  • First licensed woman pilot in California
  • Second in Powder Puff Derby
  • Charter member of the Ninety-Nines 
  • Radio Program: Sky Doing
  • Stunt pilot in movie “The White Sister”
  • Chicago Air Race: Put plane in vertical bank fifty feet from ground.



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