Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 377
The main characters in Fly Girls are the five pilots that Keith O'Brien focuses on.
Amelia Earhart is probably the best-known of the pilots in the book. She wanted to leave Boston behind and saw flying as a way to do that. She'd moved around her whole life with her mother and sister. At twenty-nine, she had only a trail of broken dreams behind her. She went to an employment agency and got a job as a social worker; she went on to be the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She was lost while flying solo.
Ruth Elder was a beautiful woman who wanted to be the first to fly to Paris. She was an actress who eventually won records for her flights. Ultimately, she lost her fame, her money, and went through a series of marriages. In despair, she tried to kill herself. She survived, though, and went on to return to an earlier husband and live out her life in contentment.
Ruth Nichols was a wealthy girl from New York whose father worked on Wall Street; O'Brien says her house was so large it didn't need a street number. She wanted to make a name for herself. She agreed to do what her parents wanted her to socially if she could learn to fly. She crashed during the years and lived with pain from her injuries. She became very depressed and focused on the times when things didn't work out with her flights. She ultimately killed herself.
Louise McPhetridge Thaden didn't just want to fly. She was born in Alabama and wanted a family, fame, and the skies. She was an educated saleswoman who fell behind on the sales of coal so she could go to the Travel Air hangar and watch the men there work. She wanted to be a part of that. She was a daredevil who followed her own impulses. She ends up staying in touch with many people from the air races and airfields.
Frances Klingensmith was from the northern plains. She was the first woman to have a pilot's license in North Dakota. She was killed in a crash during a race. Afterward, journalists use her as an example of why women shouldn't participate in air races.
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