Marvell Crosson Died in Powder Puff Derby

   Marvell Crosson was the only pilot to die in the Powder Puff Derby. She was a very fine pilot who flew was a bush pilot in Alaska. She an her bother Joe went to Alaska because they knew that there were many jobs there. They intended to start an airline but the racing bug hit Marvel.
Before The Derby Marvel flew the entire course to know the route. She had the fastest plane in the race and was favored to be the winner. She was warned of sabotage because her plane was so much faster than the other planes. Marvel wasn’t deterred. She was confident that she would win.
After winning Marvel planned to go back to Alaska to build a home and continue to develop the airline business with her brother. She wasn’t afraid or concerned about the warnings of sabotage.
Unfortunately, she had problems right away. She damaged the left-wing after an accident. That was easy to fix but soon she developed engine trouble. She was an experienced pilot…how could this happen! Well it happened. By definition, it was an accident. No one knew where she was until her body was found in the desert of Arizona. The women of The Derby were shocked. Marvel was one of the most qualified pilots in the race.
Marvel’s body was found near her plane. Residents of the town of Welton, Arizona saw a plane falling out of the sky. Reports said her probably tried to jump to safety. It seemed that her plane developed engine trouble.She probably bailed out too low so her parachute couldn’t open in order to save her. It was so sad…this beautiful, talented lady found with broken bones and her parachute wrapped around her. She probably tried to pull the rip cord but it didn’t work.

  The women pilots said they needed to continue in Marvel’s honor. Unfortunately, the participants believed that sabotage was responsible for their problems.


Thea Rasche, the German Pilot

Thea Rasche was a German woman who participated in the Powder Puff Derby. Fellow pilots named her “Queen of the Air.” After a meeting with Amelia Earhart Thea became a charter member of the ninety-nines.


  • License signed by Orville Wright
  • First woman to own and operate an airplane in the state of Michigan
  • Came in 9th in Powder Puff Derby
  • First woman accepted by Parks Air College
  • Awarded Bronze Star Award from OX-5 Pioneers
  • Inducted into Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame
  • First woman in Germany to be awarded a seaplane license

This not a honor but Thea went back to Germany during World War II and joined the Nazi Party. She soon became a member of the Nationalist Socialist Flying Club. After the war she returned to Germany.

After the war she returned to the United States and she died in 1971.






Phoebe Omlie

I have written about so many of the pioneer women pilots. All of them are superb pilots in different ways. Unfortunately, each have one thread in common. Except for Amelia Earhart, all are unknown to the general public but in their day they were unique women.

   During her teen years she hung around an airport near her home. She talked a flight  instructors to take her up in his plane. He decided to make the plane spin and perform other acrobatic maneuvers. He hoped to scare Phoebe so she would never want to fly again but she couldn’t wait to fly again be up in the sky again.

      After graduating from high school she became a secretary but her heart was in the sky. She was fascinated about parachutes. She hired a teacher and financed the lesson .

Soon she married her teacher, Vern Omlie. He owned a flying school and together they formed the Omlie Flying Circus. Phoebe became very proficient in parachute jumping and even wing walking. Here was this tiny lady hanging by her teeth or walking on the wing of a plane. She even did the stunt flying in a movie called the “Perils of Pauline.”

The couple practiced very carefully and eventually Phoebe could move from one plane to another.  Incredible. Vern and Phoebe didn’t earn a lot of money with the flying circus. But Phoebe did get so much attention. This stunt helped Phoebe get the job of working on stunts for silent movie.

Vern and Phoebe flew very important mercy missions forest fires or floods. This showed the government and the public that planes were valuable in non military situations. They also were plane spotters. Phoebe Omlie is one of those fabulous pilots.

For More Information See:

High, Wide and Frightened: Louise Thaden

Women Aloft: Valerie Moolman

Powder Puff Derby: Gene Nora Gensen

Powder Puff Derby: Mike Walker

High, Wide and Frightened: Louise Thaden

Women Aloft: Valerie Moolman

Powder Puff Derby: Gene Nora Gensen

Powder Puff Derby: Mike Walker


  • First federal pilots license
  • First licensed female transport pilot
  • First position winner in light category in Powder Puff Derby
  • First women to be appointed to a federal position in the field of aviation
  • Highest altitude record.
  • Editor of Aero Digest
  • Organized the Memphis Aero Club
  • First woman official in the government to represent the field of aviation. She acted as a technical adviser the National Advisory Committee with the Bureau of Air Commerce.
  • Created navigational aids
  • Worked other pilots in the Air Marking Program
  • Worked with Amelia Earhart to make an air grid of the United States.
  • Coordinator in the research department of the Civil Aeronautics Administration

In 1936 Vern died in a plane crash. He was a passenger on a commercial flight. He was so careful about his flying and never crashed. It was sad that Vern died in such a tragic way. After Vern’s death Phoebe’s spiraled She then died of lung cancer.



























































Ruth Elder, A Unique Pilot

Standing outside the "American Girl"

Ruth Elder and George Halderman (

Ruth Elder was more than a pretty face and a would-be actress. She would soon be an incredible pilot. She became known as the “Miss America” of aviation. 

Ruth was overcome with excitement after Charles Lindbergh’s flight. She believed that a man could fly across the ocean why not a woman. She decided she would be that women. The $ 25 ,000 prize would be terrific and the fame would help her movie career. 

Businessmen men were looking for a girl to make the flight and they soon picked Ruth. She was elated. Now her dream of money and fame would come true.

 She learned to fly from her instructor George Halderman who became her co-pilot on her trip across the Atlantic. 

She bought a plane that could fly very long distances was perfect for a trip across the ocean. Ruth named the plane ”American Girl.” All the eyes of America and the world were anxious to see this beautiful women. So the name “American Girl” was so appropriate.

After a period of time Ruth believed she was ready but on the day of departure the weather wasn’t clear enough to take off.  Ruth and George left anyway. She wanted to duplicate Lindbergh’s flight but she never made it. She crashed into the ocean due to a oil leak. She was fortunate to be picked up by a Dutch tanker only 300 miles from Paris.

Even though she didn’t reach her goal she was greeted with great fanfare in Paris and in New York. Each city gave her a ticker tape parade to honor her achievement. This was a fabulous moment for Ruth. Now she was just like Lindbergh even though Ruth’s flight was different because she didn’t reach her destination. Lindbergh was lucky to complete his flight.

Ruth was the first woman to attempt to fly across the Atlantic and set a new over water record. She had flown Ruth the longest flight ever by a woman. Now her name was added to the list of aviation pioneers.

She was asked to give many talks about her experiences on the flight. She earned money from the flight her and talks she made to her adoring fans.  In 1928 Ruth starred in a movie called “Moran of the Marines.” and in 1929 in Ruth made another movie titled “The Winged Horseman.” Due to Ruth’s fame people flocked to see these movies. 

Moran of the Marines Movie Poster

The  beautiful Ruth Elder and handsome Hoot Gibson (

In 1929 Ruth entered the All-Women Air Race. Reporters  asked her if she would have male pilots to help with any mechanical problems. She replied that she would do it all by herself. Her friend, Hoot Gibson offered to go with her to help but she declined. She knew him because he was a rodeo champion and film actor. They wanted to know why she wanted to make this flight. She said that it was for the money. She didn’t want to work for low pay as a secretary all her life. Then she told them she had to go join the other women in the race. Winning was a goal it was more important to be part of this exciting adventure. Ruth didn’t want to answer any more questions. They still asked her more. They wanted to know if she thought she would win. Ruth answered truthfully that she just wanted to finish it. She related that other women had faster planes and more experience. Ruth just wanted to go from Santa Monica and end up in Cleveland. That goal was enough for her. She just wanted to prove that air travel was safe for women.

Like all the pilots in the derby she had trouble with sabotage problems and mechanical issues. She still achieved her goal to finish the race. It was a grueling eight day race over 2,759 miles still she placed fifth in the race. Quite an achievement for the beautiful woman who just wanted to be an actress. 

Hope you enjoyed this exciting ride with Ruth Elder…the pretty girl who was a unique pilot in the Golden Age of Aviation.

In 1913 a children’s book was published about her flying life. It was written by Julie Cummins and illustrated by Marlene R. Laugessen, Titled, Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America’s Heart. 

The Ruth Darrow book series is based on the life of Ruth Elder. It was written by Mildred Wirt Benson in 1930.  author also wrote the Nancy Drew series. Even the The illustration of Ruth Darrow looks similar to Ruth Elder.  The author also wrote the Nancy Drew series.

The American public was fascinated by aviation in the 1930’s. The Ruth Darrow series was written for teenage girls. It was the time that girls began to feel that they could soar in the air or on the ground. 

Crossing the Horizon was a novel about Ruth Elder. It was written by Lauri Notaro in 2013. It’s a fictionalized account of Ruth’s flying days and it was well researched. It contains facts and fiction about the life of Ruth Elder. I learned about the trials and challenges pilots faced in the early days aviation.

The era of barnstorming was over and now it was time for air races. These helped people focus on something else besides the gloom of the depression. What a glorious time for the pilots of the first all women air race!  

Moolman, Valerie, Women Aloft    

Walker, Mike, Powder Puff Derby: Petticoat Pilots and  Flying Flappers Jensen, Gene, Powder Puff Derby

Notaro, Laurie:

The Friendly Rivalry Between Earhart and Smith

Part Two: Friendly Rivalry Between Amelia Earhart and Elinor Smith

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. Hope you enjoyed my post about these amazing women.