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Women in Aviation

March is designated as Women's History Month.  This is the time when schools, museums and libraries focus on programs that showcase the numerous achievements and accomplishments of women throughout history.

The National Air and Space Museum Library has a significant amount of titles pertaining to women's achievements in the field of aviation. 

Jacqueline Cochrane was the founder and head of the Women's Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) program in World War II and became the first female pilot to fly faster than the speed of sound.  Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography  by Jacqueline Cochran and Maryann Brinley tells the life story of this trailblazing woman.


Eileen Lebow's Before Amelia: Women Pilots in the Early Days of Aviation surveys the remarkable female aviation pioneers that made their mark prior to 1914.  Women such as Hilda Hewlett, a British woman who was the first woman in her country to earn a pilot's license. She also created and managed a successful aircraft manufacturing company. And if that wasn't enough to keep her busy, she also created and ran the first flying school in the United Kingdom. Or women such as Raymonde de Laroche, a French woman, who became the first licensed female pilot in 1910. Harriet Quimby, the first woman to fly across the English Channel is also celebrated in this book. (The NASM Library also has Harriet Quimby: America's First Lady of the Air, The Story of Harriet Quimby, America's First Licensed Woman Pilot and the First Woman Pilot to Fly the English Channel by Edward Y. Hall)

Soaring Above Setbacks: The Autobiography of Janet Harmon Bragg, African American Aviator
by Janet Harmon Bragg and Marjorie M. Kriz, is the story of the first African American woman to earn a full commerical pilot's license.  A registered nurse, she earned her pilot license through many trials and tribulations because of her gender and her race.  In 1943 during World War II she attempted to join the Women's Auxilary Service Pilots (WASP), but was turned down because of her race.  This book also discusses her later years when Ms. Bragg operated a few nursing homes with her husband.

Promised the Moon: The Untold Story of the First Women in the Space Race by Stephanie Nolen, Right Stuff, Wrong Sex: America's First Women in Space Program by Margaret Weitekamp and The Mercury 13: The Untold Story of 13 American Women and the Dream of Space Flight by Martha Ackmann are books that relate the trials, tribulations and successes of women and the space program.

National Air and Space Museum photographer Carolyn Russo has a wonderful book, Women and Flight: Portraits of Contemporary Women Pilots.  This lovely book is filled with interviews and photographs of contemporary heroines of the sky.

When people think of pilots in Alaska they probably think of men or bush pilots flying through the gorgeous landscape of Alaska. Well, there are also female pilots flying around the 49th state. Jenifer Fratzke's Alaska's Women Pilots: Contemporary Portraits contains oral histories of seven of Alaska's female pilots who fly small planes and helicopters in some very extreme environments.

The 99 (Ninety-Nine) News is a serial/periodical that is the official publication of the International Organization of Woman Pilots.   

These titles are just a few on the subject of women in aviation that are included in the National Air and Space Museum Library collection.

Leah Smith

 Related: Bessie Coleman


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