Women in British Imperial Airspace

Women in British Imperial Airspace: 1922-1937

LIZ MILLWARD
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt819g2
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  • Book Info
    Women in British Imperial Airspace
    Book Description:

    Using a wealth of archival material, including government documents, Liz Millward investigates the very idea of airspace. She maps the contours of five forms of civilian airspace - the private, the commercial, the imperial, the national, and the body of the pilot herself - as concrete places through which social differences such as gender, class, race, and sexuality were reproduced and challenged.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6051-2
    Subjects: Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-16)

    In 1936, after the New Zealand pilot Jean Batten had become the first person to fly direct from England to New Zealand, a London newspaper leader remarked that “Miss Batten must be a most extraordinary young woman. Is she human or superhuman? Are her nerves made of steel or reinforced concrete? The dream of physical isolation for nations will become more than ever a dream if she and others like her continue in this vein. Perhaps it is time we ceased squabbling about sex equality.”¹ These were crucial questions that in turn raised others. Were modern women more machines than...

  5. 1 THE VERY IDEA OF AIRSPACE
    (pp. 17-29)

    Spaces have to be imagined, discussed, defined, and mapped in addition to physically occupied. The very idea of airspace – what it was, whose rightful place it was, who should control it, what it meant – was developed through the discourse of “airmindedness.” Airmindedness and its equivalents in German, French, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and so on were terms that circulated widely during the interwar period. Airmindedness had been promoted before the war, but afterward the number of devotees grew. They had to counter the prevailing image of aircraft as harbingers of death and convince war-weary populations to “be up to date and...

  6. 2 PRIVATE AIRSPACE: WOMEN AND LIGHT AEROPLANE CLUBS
    (pp. 30-52)

    For some women the air was a space of possibilities during the 1920s and 1930s. Airspace offered an alternative to the domestic sphere of women’s responsibilities. In 1929 Stella Wolfe Murray argued that “I do not advocate neglecting your parents: honour and succour them, especially in their old age, but don’t stay at home and do housework when you long, body and soul, to fly to the uttermost ends of the earth, there to find your mission in life and your gift to the world.”¹ Before women could take advantage of any aerial possibilities, however, they had to learn to...

  7. 3 THE (IN)COMPETENCY OF COMMERCIAL WOMEN PILOTS: THE “B” LICENCE BAN
    (pp. 53-81)

    Women pilots and their men supporters may have had a certain amount of success in staking a claim to private airspace through training subsidies, at least in Britain. But they were less successful at occupying commercial airspace. During the 1920s international committees divided civilian airspace into private and commercial forms. Private airspace was occupied by the holder of an “A” licence, but commercial airspace, which was the space for flows of passengers, freight, and employment opportunities, was limited to holders of “B” licences. This private-commercial distinction fragmented airspace and facilitated restrictive legislation.

    In 1924 the International Commission on Air Navigation...

  8. 4 THE EMPIRE TAKES FLIGHT
    (pp. 82-116)

    In an attempt to drum up sponsorship for her proposed England to Australia flight, Amy Johnson wrote to the United Empire Party in March 1930 with a rhetorical question: “Do you not think a ’plane named ‘Spirit of England’ flown through our Dominions would capture the hearts of the general public and ‘do its bit’ towards Empire Unity by bringing the Mother Country into closer contact with them?”¹ Her question indicates the existence of another form of airspace in addition to the private and commercial forms. This third form was imperial airspace. This type of airspace was seen, by Johnson...

  9. 5 THE GODWIT FLIES HOME
    (pp. 117-150)

    On 16 October 1936 Jean Batten landed at Mangere Aerodrome just outside Auckland at the end of the first direct flight ever made from England to New Zealand. Although Batten made one more record-breaking flight from Australia to England the following year, her flight to New Zealand marked the realization of what she claimed was her ultimate ambition. She wanted to link the mother country with her homeland by air and promote airline services between the two places.¹ In a letter to her sponsor, Lord Wake-field, written from the luxury Hotel St George in Wellington a week after the flight,...

  10. 6 CHALLENGING HETERONORMATIVITY: THE PILOT'S BODY AS BREADWINNIG COMMODITY
    (pp. 151-178)

    If the members of the Medical Sub-Commission of the International Commission on Air Navigation (ICAN) had attempted to pathologize women pilot’s bodies, then arguably in Jean Batten, ten years later, some women found an example through which they could celebrate the flying female body and perhaps extend its possibilities, bringing it down to earth. Her control over airspace changed their relation to everyday space. This worked because Batten’s body itself was another form of airspace – modern, youthful, glamorous, desirable, and suggestive of independence and lesboerotic possibility. While the iconic figure of the pragmatic female pioneer provided the basis for approving...

  11. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 179-184)

    In 1934 the British feminist Winifred Holtby claimed that “when an Amy Johnson breaks aviation records, when a Madame Curie discovers radium, an Ethel Smyth composes a Mass, a Frances Perkins controls perhaps the most difficult government department in the American New Deal – then it becomes a trifle harder for young girls to tell themselves: ‘It doesn’t matter. I’m only a woman.’ The possibility of achievement has been vindicated.”¹ These were all proud feminist accomplishments that would spur women on to greater glories and silence any doubts that they had about the importance of their contributions. In 1937 Jean Batten...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 185-226)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 227-244)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 245-249)