Jackie Cochran

I might have been born in a hovel
but I am determined to travel with the wind and the stars.
— Jackie Cochran

Born Bessie Lee Pittman in Pensacola, FL in 1906, Jackie Cochran, was the youngest of five children. She rose from a poverty-stricken childhood to become one of history’s most accomplished female aviators. She worked in a cotton mill at the age of six, and labored at a series of jobs before answering her call to the air. She married Robert Cochran in 1920, and after the marriage ended with the death of Robert in 1925, she retained the name of Cochran and began using Jacqueline or Jackie as her name.

She learned to fly in 1932 at the Roosevelt Flying School in Long Island and pursued advanced flight instruction at Ryan School of Aeronautics going on to get her instrument, commercial and air transport pilot ratings. Some of her achievements included:

  • In 1934, she flew in the London, England to Melbourne, Australia race.
  • In 1935, she became the first woman to fly in the Bendix Trophy Race, which she won in 1938.
  • In 1937 she became the first woman to make a blind instrument landing.
  • In 1939-40 she set new women’s records in altitude and open class speed.
  • She was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean during World War II, leading to the formation of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) program.
  • In 1950, she received the Harmon Trophy as the Aviatrix of the Decade.
  • In 1953, she became the first woman to break the speed barrier.
  • In 1962, she subsequently set 73 records in three years.
  • In 1964, she exceeded Mach 2.
  • She was also the first woman to land and take off from an aircraft carrier

She was a sponsor of the Mercury 13 program, an early effort to test the ability of women to be astronauts. She served as the President of the Ninety Nines for two terms. She received the Distinguished Service Medal for her leadership of the WASP and three Distinguished Flying Cross awards for other records. She was also a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Jackie Cochran also authored two autobiographies —The Stars at Noon and, with Mary Ann Bucknam Brinley, Jackie Cochran.

Jackie Cochran pioneered women’s aviation as one of the most prominent racing pilots of her generation.

See Also:

The National Hall of Fame

Women in Aviation and Space History

Jacqueline Cochran and the Woman’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs)

Celebrating Female Pilots and their Contribution to WW2! Clipped Wings by Molly Merryman @DeborahBrosseau @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours #Books #Veterans — Reads & Reels

In her exhilerating book Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII, author Molly Merryman shines light on the critical and dangerous work of the daring female aviators who changed history. New York University Press classics series has just updated the book with Merryman’s reflections on the changes in women’s aviation in the past twenty years. A documentary based on Merryman’s work, Coming Home: Fight For A Legacy, is currently in production. The WASP directly challenged the assumptions of male supremacy in wartime culture. They flew the fastest fighter planes and heaviest bombers; they test-piloted experimental models and worked in the development of weapons systems. Yet the WASP were the only women’s auxiliary within the armed services of World War II that was not militarized. In Clipped Wings, Merryman draws upon finally-declassified military documents, congressional records, and interviews with the women who served as WASP during World War II to trace the history of the over one thousand pilots who served their country as the first women to fly military planes. She examines the social pressures that culminated in their disbandment in 1944—even though a wartime need for their services still existed—and documents their struggles and eventual success, in 1977, to gain military status and receive veterans’ benefits.

Celebrating Female Pilots and their Contribution to WW2! Clipped Wings by Molly Merryman @DeborahBrosseau @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours #Books #Veterans — Reads & Reels

Words on Wednesdays: WAVES

Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) were a unit of the U.S. Naval Reserve. Mildred McAfee served as the first director of the WAVES. The first class consisted of 644 women, and subsequent classes produced a maximum of 1,250 graduates and by fall 1942, the U.S. Navy had produced a record 10,000 women for active service. WAVES were not eligible for combat duty and duties included everything from patching bullet holes in a naval boat to performing engine checks on a seaplane.  (See more here).

An undated photo from the personal collection of Alice Virginia Benzie, a Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service -- WAVES -- sailor stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., in the 1940s, shows WAVES standing in formation outside the hangars. By the time recruiting ended in 1945, the WAVES boasted a force of 86,000 enlisted and more than 8,000 female officers -- around 2.5 percent of the Navy’s total strength at the time. Courtesy photo

Photo Source: https://www.defense.gov/Explore/News/Article/Article/1102371/remembering-navy-waves-during-womens-history-month/

March is Women History Month and Women in Aviation Month.

See Also:

The WAVES of World War II

Words on Wednesday: Ann Baumgartner

Image of : Carl, Ann Baumgartner; Army Air Forces, Organizations, Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). [photograph]

Photo Source: Smithsonian Air and Space

Anne Baumgartner was born on August 27th 1918 in Augusta, GA. Her interest in aviation began when she learnt about Amelia Earheart in school.  She learned to fly at Somerset Hills Airport in Basking Ridge, New Jersey and entered the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) training at Houston, TX in 1943. She was assigned to tow a target squadron at Camp Davis, North Carolina, flying Curtiss A-25s, and later transferred to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, where she became the first and only female test pilot.

Some of the aircraft she flew included: T-7, AT-17, AT-10, C-45, C-47, A-24, A-25, B-25, B-26, B-17, B-29, P-38, P-40, P-47, P-51, YP-59A as well as foreign-made Avro Lancaster, deHavilland Mosquito, Spitfire, Junkers Ju-88 and the Canadian C-64. She became the first women to fly a jet when she test flew the YP-59A in 1944.

When the WASP was disbanded in 1944, she returned to flight instruction and writing for New York Times. She died in 2008 at the age of 90.

See Also:

Women in Aviation: Anne Baumgartner Carl
World War II Database: Anne Baumgartner

Words on Wednesdays: Ruth Law Oliver

Fearless FlyerRuth Law

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.

See Also:

Ruth Law—Queen of the Air: Challenging Stereotypes and Inspiring a Nation
Women in Aviation and Space History
This Ace Aviatrix Learned to Fly Even Though Orville Wright Refused to Teach Her

Women in Transportation History: Lorna de Blicquy, Pilot, Flight Instructor, Civil Aviation Inspector — Transportation History

Canadian aviation pioneer Lorna de Blicquy was born in 1931 near the town of Goderich in the province of Ontario. De Blicquy, who developed a strong interest in aviation after a cousin took her for a flight over the Canadian capital of Ottawa, started to take flying lessons when she was only 14. At the […]

via Women in Transportation History: Lorna de Blicquy, Pilot, Flight Instructor, Civil Aviation Inspector — Transportation History

Monday Morning Inspiration: First African American Woman in Space

“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations…If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won’t exist because you’ll have already shut it out … You can hear other people’s wisdom, but you’ve got to re-evaluate the world for yourself.”

                                                                                                         — Dr Mae Jemison

Dr. Mae Jemison  is an American Astronaut & Physician. She was born on October 17, 1956 in Decatur, AL. She obtained her BS  degree in Chemical Engineering from Stanford in 1977 and an M.D. from Cornell University in 1981. She served in the Peace Corps for 2 1/2 years and became the first African American selected to the NASA Astronaut Program in 1987.

She also became the first African American Women in Space when she orbited the Earth for  190 hrs, 30 minutes, and 23 seconds, with six other astronauts on STS-47 mission on September 12 1992.

After leaving NASA in 1993, she taught at Dartmouth College,  and  currently runs BioSentient Corp, a medical technology company. She continues to be a strong advocate for science eduction

March is Women History Month and Women of Aviation Month.

See Also:
Biography.com
NASA Astronaut Bio
Air and Space

Today in Women’s Transportation History – 2010: The Flying Flapper of Freeport Takes Her Last Flight — Transportation History

Trailblazing aviator Elinor Smith died in Palo Alto, California, at the age of 98. She was born Elinor Regina Patricia Ward in 1911 in New York City. (She became Elinor Smith after her father, whose wide-ranging show business pursuits included singing and comedy, changed his name to Tom Smith.) Elinor Smith grew up in the […]

via Today in Women’s Transportation History – 2010: The Flying Flapper of Freeport Takes Her Last Flight — Transportation History