Women in Aviation
Women have made significant contributions to aviation since the Wright Brothers’ first 12-second flight in 1903. Blanche Scott was the first women pilot, in 1910, when the plane she was allowed to taxi mysteriously became airborne. In 1911, Harriet Quimby became the first licensed woman pilot. Later in 1912, Harriet became the first women to fly across the English Channel.
Today, women pilots fly for the airlines, fly in the military and in space, fly air races, command helicopter mercy flights, haul freight, stock high mountain lakes with fish, seed clouds, patrol pipelines, teach students to fly, and maintain jet engines.
The glue that holds all of these female aviators together is their love of flying.
Amelia Earhart is probably the most well-known of early female aviators. She was the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross, which she earned by flying solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932 at the age of 34. She set many other records during her lifetime, and was heavily engaged in promoting the advancement of flying opportunities for women. In addition to her role as consummate aviator, Earhart was a founding member of the women’s flying organization known as The Ninety Nines, which is still active today.
The Ninety-Nines were founded by ninety-nine female aviators in 1929, for the purpose of providing mutual support and advancement of women in aviation. Amelia Earhart was the organization’s first president.
Located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, today The Ninety-Nines is an international organization of 5,500 licensed female pilots from 35 countries. Members include professional pilots, pilots who teach others to fly, pilots who are technicians and mechanics, and pilots who fly for pleasure.
The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) were female pilots who were employed by the Unites States Army Air Forces during World War II. Totaling a little over a thousand pilots, these female pilots transported cargo, towed targets for live anti-aircraft artillery practice, and otherwise relieved male pilots for combat duty.
Opportunities for women in aviation did not come easily; they were based on decades of struggle, determination, and perseverance. Although women have flown since 1910, nearly all of them were restricted to general aviation, i.e. private planes, or support jobs, (prior to the 1970s) and our exhibits reflect those historical roles. However, women have now gained full access to military and commercial cockpits, as well as the Space Shuttle and aerospace technology,
Women are currently contributing to aviation, science, technology, and space exploration. Women are involved in aviation for many reasons. They love flying, and they love using their talents and being respected for them. And mostly, they love the feeling of belonging to this strong family called aviation.