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Women of Flight Special Collection
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Collection Overview
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This collection consists of several donations made in 1981 for the Women of Aviation Exhibit at the San Diego Aerospace Museum. It has been added to over the past few decades. It documents the history of women in aviation and includes much information in the Ninety Nines.
The female pioneers of flight all began with aviatrixes, such as Amelia Earhart, Betty Wharton, and Blanche Noyes, in 1929. Their fame started with the creation of the “Ninety-Nines,” an international organization of licensed women pilots established to educate and support their fellow women who have passion for flight. Named for the original 99 members, the “Ninety-Nines” were established at Curtiss Field, Long Island, New York. Of course each woman began her flying career in her own time and reached success for her own achievements, but all thanks to the support of her fellow aviatrixes and their organizations gave these female pilots the strength to fulfill their passion for flying. Along with the “Ninety-Nines,” the Women’s Air Derby was born in 1929 as an official air race for women to compete in flight in the United States, modeled after the men’s transcontinental races. As part of the National Air Races, the Women’s Derby, also known as the “Powder Puff Derby,” was a cross-country race where only women pilots participated, the first of which included Amelia Earhart, Ruth Elder, Betty Gillies, Blanche Noyes, Thea Rasche, Bobbi Trout, Gladys O’Donnell, along with many more. Unfortunately with the stock market crash, flying planes became too expensive and only a few women could continue to race. During World War II, under the direction of the United States Army Air Forces, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) was established for civilian female pilots to fly military aircraft. Two famous aviatrixes, known as Jacqueline "Jackie" Cochran and Nancy Harkness Love, proposed to free male pilots from their duties by employing female pilots for non-combat missions. Although both proposals were denied in 1940, once the U.S. was involved in the war they began to realize there weren’t enough male pilots, therefore establishing two programs that later merged together to become WASP under the direction of Cochran in 1943. After the war was won, WASP was disbanded since the female pilots weren’t needed anymore. In 1947, the “Ninety-Nines” (also written as 99’s in this collection) resurrected the Powder Puff Derby for those women who still wanted to pursue their dreams of flying. For 30 years, women raced for AWTAR, the All Women's Transcontinental Air Race, which had its own office and board members preparing for the annual races. In 1947, the final race was held due to high costs and a lawsuit for not allowing male pilots to race. The Whirly-Girls was established in 1955 as an organization for international women helicopter pilots. The goals of this organization are to promote women in the helicopter industry through scholarship awards and mentoring for training women pilots, exchange information among other female helicopter pilots, and promote community acceptance of rotorcraft. As of 2011, there are over 1700 registered members representing 44 countries. The women featured in this collection, and their involvement in history as aviatrixes, are listed below and their individual info can be found in boxes #5 and #6.
1 Cubic Feet This is a 6 box collection. In addition, it also is composed of a file cabinet. It is comprised of Artifacts, Documents, Magazines, Newspapers, and Photographs.
This collection is open to research by appointment.