Monday, March 22, 2010

Women in Aviation

Born in Atlanta, Texas 1892 Bessie Coleman would become the first African – American to hold a pilot's license and the first African-American woman to hold a pilot's license. At the age of 23 Bessie left Texas for Chicago to live with her two brothers and make something of her life. When she heard the stories from returning soldiers from World War I of flying exploits, she became interested in aviation. In 1918, few American women held pilot licenses and those that did were largely white and wealthy. Every flying schools Bessie applied refused her because she was a woman and black. On the advice of a newspaper owner, she decided to learn to fly in France. She left for Paris, France from New York on November 20, 1920. In June of 1921, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale granted her an international pilot's license. On her return to New York in September of 1921, she received a hero's welcome. Bessie would perform at air shows for the next five years until her tragic death. For more information on Bessie Coleman see:

The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II provided invaluable service to the United States military in World War II by freeing male pilots to fly combat missions. Some of the missions flown by the WASPs included training flights, engineering test flights, check rides, target towing, and ferrying. The WASPs flew every type of Army air Force aircraft including the B-29 bomber. While these women served their country in World War II in the military, they did not receive veteran's status until 1979. Their efforts have largely gone unheralded. Only this year were their efforts recognized by the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal. The records of the WASPs are held by Texas Woman's University, more information about the Wasps and photos can be found here:

Women continue to contribute to aviation today flying for airlines and the military in combat roles. Some interviews with women pilots from the current s wars can be found at:

1 comment:

Cathy W. said...

If you want to learn more about Bessie Coleman, check out these books at Dick Smith Library:

Bessie Coleman: Daring to Fly by Sally M. Walker; illustrations by Janice Lee Porter. (an electronic book)

Black Wings: Courageous Stories of African Americans in Aviation and Space History by Von Hardesty.
CALL NUMBER TL539.H285 200 (in Stacks)

Extraordinary Texas Women by Judy Alter.
CALL NUMBER CT3262.T4 A45 2008 (in Stacks)

Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger; illustrated by Teresa Flavin.
CALL NUMBER TL540.C646 B67 2001(in Curriculum Collection)

Queen Bess: Daredevil Aviator by Doris L. Rich.
(an electronic book)

Talkin' about Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman by Nikki Grimes; illustrated by E.B. Lewis.
CALL NUMBER TL540 .C646 G75 2002 (in Curriculum Collection)