Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Women of the Air, Judy Lomax blends narrative history with individual biographies to document the records and achievements of women in aviation. The author asserts that male pioneers in the field should be honored and remembered, but so should the determined women who defied convention and contributed to aeronautical development and public enthusiasm for air travel. As a result, Women of the Air primarily focuses on twelve women aviators who, whether they became famous or labored in obscurity, all overcame male hostility to prove the physical and psychological ability of women to fly.

The book’s first five chapters focus on the achievements of early female balloonists, parachutists, and stunt pilots, the latter of whom raced automobiles or flew upside down only twenty feet above the ground. The focus on American and European aviators continues in chapters 6 through 16, which provide brief biographies of women flyers who set precedents or records by soloing across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, circling the globe, or crossing vast parts of Africa and Australia. They had to rely on primitive compasses or, when available, largely useless maps scaled at 32 miles per inch. (In contrast, the scale of contemporary European road maps was 4 miles per inch.) The chapters also focus on women who established and commanded women’s auxiliaries to Allied air forces in World War II and on brave female test pilots. The test pilots operated unstable rocket planes that reached 30,000 feet in a minute and a half and jet fighters that traveled more than 1,200 miles per hour. The last chapter reviews the growing equality enjoyed by women in aviation and concludes that those featured in Women of the Air were largely responsible for its development. Lomax argues that there is still room for improvement, however; women, for example, still are not allowed to fly combat aircraft. The book includes thirty-four black-and-white photographs, mostly of the aviators discussed, and a three-page bibliography that lists the autobiographies, biographies, and histories that the author consulted.