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.

Soar Elinor!

Soar-Elinor-Final-CoverHow will you celebrate Women’s History Month? Download a free Women’s History Month activity kit with a board game, seek and find, and more. (PDF download)

When old timers said airplanes are for men and boys ten-year-old Elinor Smith didn’t listen. When they said she couldn’t fly under New York’s East River bridges she said “Yes, I can!” Elinor climbed into the cockpit, broke world records and became a teenaged test pilot.

SOAR, ELINOR! is the true story of daring pioneer pilot Elinor Smith. It’s beautiful illustrations were painted by Francois Roca and it was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux ISBN 978-0374371159

SOAR, ELINOR! was named one of the Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books of 2010 and selected as one of 2011′s top 10 feminist books for children by the American Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer Project . It is a 2011 National Children’s Book Council/National Council for the Social Studies Notable Book for Young People.

In 1930, The New Yorker Magazine said “(F)eminism would do rather well to claim Miss Smith.”

Elinor Smith wasn’t just an aviation pioneer. She blazed a trail for women to be treated the same as men in the air and on the ground. What did it mean to be a feminist in 1930– and what does it mean today? Download a free Women’s History Month activity kit with a board game, seek and find, and more. (PDF download)

You can visit a Bellanca plane Elinor flew on line or in person at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Interviews? Vocabulary? Geography? Prose and poetry writing? Reading Comprehension? Fun, teacher and kid friendly SOAR, ELINOR! activities, keyed to current curriculum standards, including projects and discussion starters for older kids. Download the free curriculum guide here. (PDF download)

Elinor had her own weekly radio show. Click her publicity poster to connect to a 1920′s radio station with songs from the roaring 20′s.

Come into the cockpit!  Click this photo of an airshow at Roosevelt Field to connect to live broadcasts from air traffic control all over the U.S.

365 Days of Fantastic Female Flying Feats! Find my calendar of women’s aviation achievements here.

Actual newsreel footage of Elinor smashing the endurance record!

And more newsreels- Elinor flies high, achieving an altitude record!

“Look out Amelia Earhart… Debut author Brown skillfully builds suspense as Elinor studies each bridge, plans her route, and takes flight, leading to a nail-biting conclusion.”
– Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“Brown’s prose is crystalline, lively and reads well aloud. Roca captures the air and sky beautifully”
– Kirkus

“Some people were born to fly, and Elinor Smith (1911-2010) was one of them. In her assured picture-book debut, Tami Lewis Brown introduces Elinor as a 6-year-old begging to ride in a biplane…[A]erial feats to merit a sequel to this book.”
– Washington Post

“The language of Washington author Tami Lewis Brown spins and soars in this picture-book biography of pioneering aviatrix Elinor Smith…”
– Washington Parent

“This is an excellent introduction to a lesser-known but fascinating adventurer.”
— School Library Journal

“Inspiration soars from every page.”
— Booklist

Junior Library Guild Selection and featured in Kirkus’ Fall Preview Supplement!

Fantastic reviews are rolling in for the French edition L’INCROYABLE EXPLOIT D’ELINORElinor Smith, née pour voler (Elinor Smith, born to fly) from Belgium’s Le Soir.

Vertigineux! (Breathtaking!) from France’s Telerama.

Un livre qui donne des ailes (A book that gives wings) from France’s Le Journal des Enfants


An Interview with Tami Lewis Brown

surprised-tamiHow did you get the idea for SOAR, ELINOR?

I grew up in a family of pilots—my dad, my mom and even my little sister flew small planes—so it feels like I’ve always “known” pioneer aviatrix Elinor Smith. Elinor was a record breaking pilot who did some of her most amazing flying as a teenager. Early one morning, while my eyes were still closed,  the words SOAR ELINOR hit me, almost commanding me to tell Elinor’s story.