Photo source: Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Pioneering aviator, Ruth Law Oliver, was born on May 21, 1887. She was inspired to take up flying by her brother who was parachutist and pioneer movie stuntman Rodman Law. In 1912, Law asked Orville Wright for lessons but he refused, because he thought women weren’t mechanically inclined. She enrolled in the Burgess Flying School and made her first flight on July 5, 1912 and soloed on August 12 of the same year.
She bought her first aircraft from Orville Wright in 1912 in which she became the first woman to fly at night. She set three records in 1916 on a flight from Chicago to New York. She had broken the American cross-country and nonstop record and the world’s record for continuous flight for women pilots. Her total flight time for the 884 miles from Chicago to New York was 8 hours 55 minutes and 35 seconds.
She had the honor of carrying the first official air mail to the Philippine Islands in 1919. After the war, she formed Ruth Law’s Flying Circus, a three-plane troupe that amazed spectators at state and county fairs by racing against cars, flying through fireworks, and setting altitude and distance records. She stopped flying in 1922 to appease her husband. She died on December 1, 1970, in San Francisco.
March is Women History Month and Women of Aviation Month.