Fly Melitta Schiller Von Stauffenberg

January 9, 1903 Dive bomb pilot Melitta Schiller Von Stauffenberg was born. Although she wanted to work for the Red Cross, Stauffenberg was ordered to serve in WWII as a Luftwaffe test pilot. By flying over 2,500 sorties she saved her family, of Jewish descent, from being deported to prison camps. In 1944, Stauffenberg’s brothers-in-law were executed for their attempt on Hitler’s life. She was arrested for the plot but released and ordered to continue flying.

Neta Snook Tests The Skies

January 8, 1921 Aviatrix Neta Snook test flew a new model Kinner Airster. Six months later she taught Amelia Earhart to fly in that plane. “Snookie” was the first woman pilot in Iowa and the first American woman to own an aviation business.

Bobbi Trout Flies!

January 7, 1906 Evelyn “Bobbi” Trout was born. Trout set a number of aviation records and firsts and was the last living participant of the 1929 “Powderpuff” Derby.
Elinor Smith on the left, Bobbi on the right

Fear The Nachthexen!

January 6, 1943 The Nachthexen (Night Witches, as nicknamed by the Germans), an all female Russian bomber regiment founded by Colonel Marina Raskova, were officially acknowledged for meritorious service. The women flew over 24,000 sorties and dropped over 23,000 tons of bombs, piloting canvas and wood Polikarov biplanes, originally designed for cropdusting.

Up To The Stratosphere, Jeannette Ridlon Piccard

January 5, 1895 High altitude balloonist Jeannette Ridlon Piccard was born. Piccard was the first American woman to earn a balloon license and the first to fly into the stratosphere, achieving an altitude of 10.9 miles over Lake Erie. The flight was planned with support from Dow Chemical, Goodyear, and the National Geographic Society but  “the National Geographic Society would have nothing to do with sending a woman—a mother—in a balloon into danger” Piccard observed. All three pulled their funding. Piccard eventually got the balloon off the ground with the help of several small Detroit companies and by selling her story to newspapers. Piccard later became one of the first women ordained as an Episcopal priest.

Therese Peltier Descends

January 4, 1910 Therese Peltier, the first woman to pilot an airplane, gave up aviation when her flight instructor, Leon Delagrange, was killed in a flying accident. On September 27, 1908, an Italian magazine had reported that Peltier flew 200 meters at a height of 2.5 meters, across Military Square in Milan.

Up, Up, Up Rosina Ferrario

January 3, 1913 Mountain climber Rosina Ferrario became the first Italian woman to earn a pilot’s license, and the only Italian woman to earn her license before World War I. She proposed a plan to allow woman pilots to rescue wounded soldiers from the battlefield by air but the Italian government rejected the idea.

Bobbi Trout’s Aerial Challenge

January 2, 1929 Bobbi Trout set of on an endurance flight that would last 12 hours 11 minutes, beating Viola Gentry’s women’s record, set the previous December. Three weeks later, Elinor Smith answered Trout’s challenge, flying 13 1/2 hours. Trout, Gentry and Smith continued to duel through the spring, with Elinor Smith claiming victory in April when she flew for 26 1/2 hours.

Betty Skelton, The First Lady of Firsts

January 1, 1948 Betty Skelton, the “First Lady of Firsts” won the Women’s Aerobatic Championship. During her long varied career, Skelton set over 17 records for automobiles and planes and broke barriers for women in the fields of advertising, flying, and auto testing.

Especially for the students who came to see me at Politics & Prose!

I had an AMAZING time at my favorite bookstore, Politics & Prose. Even though we had torrential rain in Washington well over 100 children and adults braved the weather and came out to hear me talk about Soar, Elinor! and my hero Elinor Smith. Thanks Blessed Sacrament and Capitol Hill Day School!!! You SOAR!

One student asked if Elinor ever crashed her plane and I promised to post this picture-

Thankfully Elinor walked away from this crash unhurt. The plane was repaired and she flew it again.

I also told students about Elinor’s funny cat. Here’s a picture of her with him. She’d just returned home after setting an endurance record- flying for over 26 hours without landing. Doesn’t she look tired? Her best friend is on her lap in this photo, wearing her flight goggles!

Thanks everyone for coming out yesterday! It was wonderful to meet you all.