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American Women and Flight since 1940

American Women and Flight since 1940

Deborah G. Douglas
Amy E. Foster
Alan D. Meyer
Lucy B. Young
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 372
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  • Book Info
    American Women and Flight since 1940
    Book Description:

    Women run wind tunnel experiments, direct air traffic, and fabricate airplanes. American women have been involved with flight from the beginning, but until 1940, most people believed women could not fly, that Amelia Earhart was an exception to the rule. World War II changed everything. "It is on the record thatwomen can fly as well as men," stated General Henry H. Arnold, commanding general of the Army Air Forces. The question became "Should women fly?" Deborah G. Douglas tells the story of this ongoing debate and its impact on American history. From Jackie Cochran, whose perseverance led to the formation of the Women's Army Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II to the recent achievements of Jeannie Flynn, the Air Force's first woman fighter pilot and Eileen Collins, NASA's first woman shuttle commander, Douglas introduces a host of determined women who overcame prejudice and became military fliers, airline pilots, and air and space engineers. Not forgotten are stories of flight attendants, air traffic controllers, and mechanics. American Women and Flight since 1940 is a revised and expanded edition of a Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum reference work. Long considered the single best reference work in the field, this new edition contains extensive new illustrations and a comprehensive bibliography.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4829-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    On Saturday, September 15, 2001, Cindy Wilson hovered seven hundred feet over hell. Wilson is a former Army helicopter pilot, tall, lean, and not the type to be fazed by much. Like most Americans, however, Wilson found what happened on the morning of September 11 shocking. “I thought the first news accounts were wrong. The first plane to crash into one of the Twin Towers … that was an accident. Then came the announcement of a second plane. I honestly thought, ‘That can’t be right. Pilots just don’t intentionally fly aircraft into buildings.’” Of course, the terrible truth was apparent...

  5. PART I: Can Women Fly?: American Women in Aviation during World War II

    • 1 Students and Teachers, Clubs and Colleges: Women in Civilian Aviation Organizations
      (pp. 15-29)

      In the early morning hours of 7 December 1941, Cornelia Fort, a young flight instructor with Andrew Flying Service, was working with a student pilot near the John Rogers Airport in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her Sunday schedule included a busy teaching program in between giving a number of aerial sightseeing tours. That first lesson of the day was typical, filled with many practice take-offs and landings, and continuing work on the skills her student needed to qualify for his first solo flight. Suddenly, however, just before the two were about to land, Fort saw a military airplane speeding directly toward her....

    • 2 Coffee, Grease, Blueprints, and Rivets: Women at Work in the Aviation Industry
      (pp. 30-53)

      The women who worked in the control towers or in other capacities for the Civil Aeronautics Administration remind us that women have been employed in a variety of positions in the air transportation business for a long time. From the earliest days of aviation, women had been involved with selling flight. During World War II the professional establishment of the flight attendants led airlines to experiment with women in other occupations, such as maintenance.

      The demands of the war led to a huge expansion in the aircraft industry and enormously enlarged the opportunities in it for female employment. From engineer...

    • 3 Daughters of Minerva: Military Women in Aviation
      (pp. 54-83)

      The development of air power in World War II encouraged many women in the belief that they could contribute to the defense of the United States. Female pilots were as eager as the men to put their flying talents into service. These women were not content to be shunted into peripheral roles; they wanted to be an integral part of the military. They wanted to be “daughters of Minerva,” the Roman Goddess of War.

      The idea of women in the military was actually not a novel one. American women had been serving the armed forces since the Revolutionary War, although...

    • 4 Nieces of Uncle Sam: The Women’s Airforce Service Pilots
      (pp. 84-104)

      Beginning in September 1942, a ten-month period of cautious and superficial calm existed between the leaders of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron (WAFS) and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD). Nancy Love, director of the WAFS, and Jacqueline Cochran, director of the WFTD, represented two very different personal styles. Each drew partisan support from interested individuals who were in sympathy with the vision or character of one or the other of the two leaders. Love evoked loyalty and respect from her small group of women pilots. A leader by example, she was an active participant in her cadre of talented...

  6. PART II: Should Women Fly?: American Women in Aviation during the Second Half of the Twentieth Century

    • 5 Demobilization and the Postwar Transition: 1945–1949
      (pp. 107-128)

      Women’s participation in aviation, institutionalized during World War II, was somewhat tenuous during the immediate postwar period. Wartime expectations of what the return to peace would mean for America were quite different from what actually happened. The war seemed to have fostered an optimistic expectation that peace would usher in the dawn of an aerial age in which women would have a significant part. This image ultimately collided with the economic reality of diminished demand for the production of airplanes. Certain social expectations had a negative impact also. Definitions of postwar normalcy were based on prewar stereotypes. For example, as...

    • 6 ʺThe Feminine Mystiqueʺ and Aviation: The 1950s
      (pp. 129-148)

      There were some remarkable women flying during the 1950s, women who broke out of “The Feminine Mystique,” a concept that would soon be exploded by Betty Friedan’s landmark book of the same title. These women were not bound by the mythic glorification of housekeeping and childcare in their quest for personal fulfillment and serious careers.

      Most of the women in aviation were considered unusual in any circle, but there were some notable individuals who attempted specifically to extend the threshold of technological possibilities and perform new feats of adventure. Jackie Cochran crashed the sound barrier, Marion Hart flew the Atlantic...

    • 7 The Impact of the Womenʹs Rights Movement: The 1960s
      (pp. 149-171)

      Toward the end of the 1950s, highly confidential experiments were conducted by the Air force on the physiological characteristics and suitability of women for space flight. Ruth Nichols, founder of Relief Wings, participated in a set of these “astronaut” tests at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, during which time she suggested that aerospace medical researchers ought to compile data on women as well as men.¹

      Then in September 1959, Geraldine “Jerrie” Cobb, a young, talented pilot, was introduced to two of the nation’s most distinguished aerospace medical researchers, Brigadier General Donald D. Flickinger of the Air Force and...

    • 8 Women with the ʺRight Stuffʺ: The 1970s
      (pp. 172-196)

      The title of Tom Wolfe’s bookThe Right Stuffhas become a popular description of the combination of ability, instinct, personality, and fitness that is supposed to characterize the supreme all-American male. Originally applied to the seven astronauts of the Mercury space program during the early 1960s, the expression also describes many of the women who were involved in aviation a decade later.

      The 1970s encompassed a number of major international crises that caused domestic shock waves in American society. These ranged from the last years of the Vietnam War, to the Camp David Peace Accords, to the American hostage...

    • 9 Captains of Industry, Airlines, and the Military: 1980–1992
      (pp. 197-231)

      The Reagan Revolution began in the fall of 1980 when voters rejected President Jimmy Carter and turned to former California governor Ronald Reagan to bring about “Morning in America.” Political, economic, and social conservatives were united in the hope that Reagan’s election would mean rolling back changes wrought by two decades of progressive political activism. Antiwar activism, civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, abortion rights, welfare, Medicaid, Earth Day, and concern for the environment were all anathema to the coalition that brought Reagan to power. Wherever one fell on the political spectrum—attracted or repelled by the new president—it...

    • 10 New World Order? 1992–2000
      (pp. 232-257)
      Amy E. Foster and Deborah G. Douglas

      In the 1990s women in aviation witnessed their greatest expansion of opportunities since World War II. From military to commercial aviation, from flying helicopters to Boeing 747s, from airport management to the Pentagon, the percentage of women (more than 20 percent) in the aviation workforce was larger than ever. Expanded professional opportunities created new arenas of participation for women as they pushed the gender envelope and continued a path of unprecedented achievement as fliers and on the ground. Nonetheless, the decade was also marked by equally prominent harassment and discrimination cases that checked the progress toward parity in employment and...

  7. Epilogue May 2003
    (pp. 258-264)

    Chicks. “Killer Chicks.” “Dixie Chicks.” Thanks to the news media, that word has been on my mind the past few weeks. We are living in dramatic times, dangerous times, and it is now commonplace to hear quoted: “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” The words are attributed to the British author George Orwell, who was equally dismayed by historical events of his own times. I’ve noted that American politicians and civic leaders are careful these days to extend their gratitude to both...

  8. Appendices: Statistics for American Women and Flight
    (pp. 265-280)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 281-307)
  10. Glossary of Abbreviations
    (pp. 308-310)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 311-341)
    Alan D. Meyer
  12. Index
    (pp. 342-359)