Queen Bess..Bessie Coleman

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Bessie Coleman was a unique woman. She was born in 1902 in a small town in Texas. She started out as a poor Black woman who picked cotton so her family could survive. It was not long till she became the first black woman pilot. Bessie Coleman, “Queen Bess,” was the first black woman pilot.There were many hurdles that she had to overcome before she was able to get her license. In the 1920’s there were no pilots that would train a black person. Bessie was not only black but a woman. Men thought that women sure didn’t belong in a plane. There were many hurdles that she had to overcome before she was able to get her license. In the 1920’s there were no pilots that would train a black person…especially a woman. 

Bessie was fortunate to meet Robert Abbott, the founder of the Chicago Defender newspaper. Bessie told him that she wanted to be a pilot but no one would teach her how to fly. Mr. Abbott suggested she go to France where race didn’t matter like it did in the U.S. Bessie even learned that there was an American black man named Eugene Bullard that learned to fly in France. There was even a French woman named Raymonde de Laroche that also was a pilot. Bessie was so excited. Maybe, she could learn to fly too.

She went to France received her licence. When she returned to America , she was hailed as a hero. Imagine, poor Bessie became the first black woman pilot.  Bessie wanted to give back to other women to encourage them to reach for the stars. She decided to start a school where she could train women to fly.

Honors:

Public library in Chicago named after Bessie

Memorial plaque placed at Chicago Cultural Center

Flowers dropped during flyovers at her grave site in Lincoln Cemetery near Chicago 

Bessie Coleman Drive near O’hare Airport

Bessie scholarship awards to high school students that wanted to learn to fly

Stamp issued in her honor in 1995

2006 inducted in the Aviation Hall of Fame

  Bessie never realized her dream to open flying school but she did receive many honors. In 1926 she was killed in a plane crash in Florida. Her memorial service was attended by 5,000 people. All over the world people were devastated by the news that their “Queen Bess” had died.

  In 1930 the Bessie Coleman Aero Club was formed to honor her. In the coming years Bessie inspired many black women to reach for the stars.

  Today there are few women pilots and fewer black women that are pilots but those numbers are increasing. This is due to Bessie Coleman blazing the path for future pilots.The organization. Women in Aviation International (www.wai.org) is very supportive of women in every area of aviation. I urge women to join this fine group of strong women. Another place to support is the International Women’s Air and Space Museum in Cleveland.(iwasm.org) I had the pleasure of visiting this museum. Tour the museum and look at the past and present of Women in Aviation.

  I want to encourage women fly like an eagle and realize your dreams. Don’t let anything stop you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edith Foltz

Edith Foltz was a pilot in the Powder Puff Derby who placed second in the race. She also was a charter member of the 99’s. Her aviation activities began before the Powder Puff derby and the 99’s. She and many other early pilots were barnstormers. She learned to fly from her husband who was a was a WWI when he came back from France after the war. He escorted a flying a flying school and she learned quickly and had 230 hours of flight. She became the second women to achieve her transport license. 

Achievements and awards:

  • Barnstormer
  • Placed second light plane category in Power Puff Derby
  • Member of Air Transport Auxiliary
  • Held Commercial license
  • Flight instructor’s rating
  • Logged over 4,000 hours of flight time
  • Taught instrument flying to Naval Cadets
  • Received Kings Medal…Britain’s highest award to foreigners
  • Ferried bombers from U.S. to England
  •  Designed the “Foltz-Up” flying suit…could be worn for flying or other activities
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            The clever Foltz up 

 

 

Vera Dawn Walker

    Vera was so small she couldn’t touch the rudder pedals she needed to prop herself up so that she could reach them. She was called the “Tiny Texan.” She was  4’11” and weighed all of 97 pounds! 

 Vera always wanted to fly like the birds so it was east to see why she was to enamored by flight. A pilot introduced her to flying and she immediately wanted to learn to fly. In order to take lessons she sold real estate. Reporters asked her why she wanted to fly she replied “because I want to.”

After she learned to fly she became a wing walker and appeared in many movies.

In 1929 she received her department Department of Commerce license. She began doing wing walking and also was an extra in movies. Again in 1929 Vera was a contestant in the Powder Puff Derby where she came in 10th. 

After flying career ended she returned to sell real estate. 

Vera didn’t have as much experience as many of the other pilots in the race but she was a spunky women who knew what she really wanted to do. Flying was her passion.

Vera Dawn Walker wearing her lovely head band

Opal Kunz

 

Opal Kunz- 1894-1967

Opal Kunz was a socialite who became a great pilot. She, like other pioneer pilots, was a strong advocate for the rights of women to enter the field of aviation. She felt that women were equal to male pilots and should be allowed to follow their dreams.

Achievements and Records:

  • 1930 Became the first woman to race with men in open competition
  • Charter member of the Ninety-Nines
  • Participated in the first Women’s Air Derby and came in 8th in the heavy category
  • Organized the Betsy Ross Air Corps. This group supported the Army Air Corp. (this became (the Air Force) They served in times of an emergency taught women to fly so that they would have a reserve number of women pilots. This group grew to 100 pilots but was short-lived. It only lasted from 1931 to 1933.
  • In 1942 taught students how to fly at Arkansas State College
  • Taught Navy cadets for the Civilian Pilot Training Program
  • Inspector for Aerojet Corporation

Opal lived a life in aviation. Why wasn’t she known for her achievements? So many women in many different fields never became well-known. What more should I say. These women had one common bond…they wanted to follow their passion. They sure did and they succeeded.

Maybe I am Vicky

Vicky in her cloche hat and lovely fur

I am watching a DVD about the brave women of the Powder Puff Derby and thinking about my Aunt Vicky. She was not a famous pilot but she must have been very brave. I wonder how my grandparents felt. They must have been so scared for their daughter. I think they must have disapproved. I think about my father and her sister. He probably was worried about his sister.

I wish that I had asked my dad about Vicky. My grandparents died before I was born and I didn’t know Vicky till I was about six years old. When my father died I received Vicky’s memorabilia. I didn’t even know she was a pilot. I was amazed. I began researching about Vicky but I found out that she sure wasn’t in the same category as the women pilots I have profiled. Still she was famous to me. Everything about Vicky fascinated me. She was a small women like several women racers. Then the similarities disappear. Or do they? She flew a plane during the Golden Age of Aviation. Imagine my aunt was famous in my eyes.

I try to think how she became a pilot. My grandparents weren’t rich and no one was adventurous in the family. Yet, Vicky did the unusual.

I believe she became a pilot after her second husband, Ward Lederer, walked out on her. Her husband’s family was wealthy and he was related to William C. Durant, the founded General Motors. The Lederer and the Durant family paid her to stay away from her husband. I think that Vicky used that money to travel around the world. After her travels she became a pilot. Was she running away from sadness or was she an adventurous soul? I will never know but I dream about her often. I am strong and tenacious just like Vicky but I don’t think I am running away from anything. I am running toward new ideas. I guess I am Cindy-Vicky or Vicky-Cindy.

I am happy that I can communicate these feelings to others. Writing is a good outlet for me to say what I can’t say in person.Thank you for this opportunity to tell you about Vicky and about myself. 

I have published another post called Vicky-Cindy and I may publish it again.

Ruth Elder, A Unique Pilot

Standing outside the "American Girl"

Ruth Elder and George Halderman (ctie.monash.edu)

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 www.IMBd.com

The  beautiful Ruth Elder and handsome Hoot Gibson (IMDb.com)

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: Laurienotaro@gmail.com

Why I Don’t Post Each Week

I don’t blog on a regular basis. I am a senior with some mobility challenges but I LOVE WRITING. I had over 3,000 pages of research but now I have cut it down. I am 3/4 finished blogging about my aunt. I have a goal of finishing the information by the first of the year…my Christmas present to you to me. After blogging about Vicky I will write about the many other women who were famous in the era of the 20’s and 30’s. Most people only know about Amelia and don’t realize that there were 99 women pilots in 1929. My goal is to bring these unique women out the shadows. When I started my blog in 1989 there were a few of these 99 still alive. I only wish I had been able to contact them. Now they are all gone. I became acquainted with them when their obituaries were posted on-line. It is sad that these women are not known today. Some were even better pilots in Amelia. I have discussed this in several posts. Amelia was a brave woman and a great pilot but there were so many others that are totally forgotten today.

  • My other goal is to increase my followers and my niche subject. Read my blog follow me if you like it… follow me if you don’t. Leave a comment about your thoughts on my writing. Every writer wants feedback on their work. Please take the time to give me your opinion.

  • For a niche subject I believe I have many followers. I wish to enlarge the blog to write about the men who were the leaders in the Golden Age Of Aviation. These men led the way for the women pilots but they also stopped them from advancing. Many men would not teach women to fly but these brave women pushed their way into the field like the men.

  • After that I will write about the men and women pilots of the Second World War. I hope many are still alive so that I can interview them about their experiences.

This “work” is daunting to most people but for me it’s “a labor of love.” I have more lofty goals that are not obtainable… SO WHAT.

  • Place a product on my blog to make tons of money…or at least a few bucks.

  • Teach seniors computer skills…like playing solitaire. That’s okay if that’s what they want to learn. I’d be proud to teach any skill.

  • Learn to make a video with my phone then go viral on YouTube.

  • Write a historical novel about my aunt.

  • Then write a screenplay from the novel. Don’t know who should play the part of my aunt…any suggestions. I could play that perfectly.

Some of these goals must to be pared down just a little! Dream a little dream!

I am a very driven person who loves to learn new ideas. I joke that I’d like to learn everything about everything! Crazy lady.

 Everyone should be realistic…what me be realistic? Everyone should follow their passion…no matter what age or physical condition. That’s the only way I can live. I hope that the readers of this post will follow their own dreams.