As I alluded to in my post on Charles Lindbergh last month, I'm expanding the conversation about pioneers in aviation, notably women pilots in the infancy of aviation. The Great War was the first time that airplanes were used so extensively, and when it ended in 1918, manufacturers and the government were left with a surplus of planes no longer needed in the war effort. Since the beginning of time, though, people have yearned to fly so the public was more than ready to buy up the surplus and take to the skies themselves. And surprisingly, a number of women strapped on leather helmets and goggles and climbed into the open cockpits of those early planes. Most were single engine bi-wing planes (Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" being the most common) with few controls and virtually no regulations in the early days on qualifications for flying them.
|Amelia Earhart, Courtesy Wiki Commons
She continued to scale new heights and was an advocate and supporter of other women in aviation. In 1935, she became the first person to fly solo from Honolulu to California, and in 1937, set her sights on becoming the first woman to fly around the world, a journey of 29,000 miles. With only 7000 miles left, contact was lost with the Coast Guard who was monitoring her flight. Amelia's plane simply disappeared over the South Pacific. Rescue efforts were unsuccessful and eventually called off, but her legacy remains. She would have been 40 years old two weeks after she disappeared.
|Bessie Coleman, Courtesy Wiki Commons
|Pancho Barnes - Courtesy Wiki Commons
|Louise Thaden (on right) with friend Frances Marsalis - Courtesy Wiki Commons
Marvel Crosson, a young pilot from Alaska, also competed in the National Air Derby of 1929. Immensely popular with the other women in the race, it was a sobering moment when Marvel's plane crashed in the Arizona desert, throwing her from the plane and killing her. It was the only fatality in the race.
Flying was a dangerous calling, but one for which the women who answered the call, would not be thwarted. They were smart, courageous, and leaders on the frontier of aviation. In the words of Amelia Earhart,
"After midnight, the moon set, and I was alone with the stars. I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, and I need no other flight to convince me that the reason flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the esthetic appeal of flying."
That appeal is part of what inspired me to write A Flying Affair, the story of a high-spirited young woman in the Roaring Twenties where adventure and romance collide in the skies. The book releases in June, but for you, dear readers, I have an early copy that I'm giving away here.
GIVEAWAY: Please leave a comment below telling me the most adventurous thing you've ever done. Or better yet, have you flown a plane yourself or jumped out of one? I can't wait to hear your answers!
Carla Stewart is the award-winning author of six novels. With a passion for times gone by, it is her desire to take readers back to that warm, familiar place in their hearts called “home.” Her 2014 release, The Hatmaker's Heart, was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award and is a current Selah Award finalist. A Flying Affair releases June 2, 2015 . Daredevil Mittie Humphreys navigates her heart as well as the skies in this beguiling adventure of grit and determination during the rollicking Roaring Twenties. Learn more about Carla at www.carlastewart.com