Women of the Air Essay - Critical Essays

Judy Lomax


Women of the Air is a popular text designed to dispel the myth that only men shaped aviation history. It is a judicious assault on male-centered historiography, and thus fits nicely within a women’s studies framework. The text has value for young adults because it provides clear examples of the social barriers female flyers had to surmount. Women were dismissed as “petticoat pilots” or “flying flappers” and were accused of stealing men’s jobs or seeking publicity. In the 1930’s, C. G. Grey expressed a popular male sentiment when he opined in Aeroplane magazine that women were not intelligent enough to scrub the floors of a hospital. Given such sexism, it is not surprising that until 1929 female flying records were listed under “miscellaneous air performances,” that male pilots initially refused to fly with Helen Richey, the first female airline pilot in the United States, and that women ferry pilots in World War II earned, in Great Britain, eighty pounds less per year than their male counterparts. The author calmly cites other inequities, and thus ably portrays the social norms of another time and place that continue to resonate.

Young adults will also benefit from this book because it effectively conveys the sense of adventure and danger that is part of aviation. Women of the Air is filled with exciting tales of women flyers who repeatedly risked life and limb. In May, 1930, for example, Amy Johnson became the...

(The entire section is 547 words.)