Independence and Freedom
I am a day late posting. Well, what can I say? It’s a holiday weekend and I am in holiday mode.
I will not wax political, although there is so much to say in that arena. I do not wish to turn this site into a political platform. However, I can not help but note that many of the women I research and write about found their own freedom and independence when neither of those things were readily available to them. Not to negate the horror of the past few weeks, but I am saturated, frustrated and a lot of other things. I simply wish to focus here, at this site, on the positive accomplishments of some fantastic women. I am not hiding my head in the sand by any means, but I have a choice to make here at this site, and I have made it.
Women have always played a vital role in history, but are often portrayed in secondary roles, if remembered at all. They have been driven by their dreams and that has resulted in some amazing accomplishments. The women I discovered took me by the hand and led me into their lives. Let me introduce you to some of these fierce women and let’s celebrate them together.
Did you know some women dreamed of being pilots during WW II, and they became “fly girls?” Over 1,000 women piloted 80% of ferry missions, delivering over 12,000 aircraft, flying 60 million miles, in 78 different aircraft from 120 bases. Did you know that a woman decrypted and sent the last message announcing the end of WW II to the white house? All true.
We draw inspiration and strength from those who have come before us. They are part of our own story, as we break through the patriarchy to find our own voices and make our own choices. But we must know about those who have paved the way for us. George Orwell said he “who controls the past controls the future.” We need role models, leaders, women who march to the beat of their own drummer, now more than ever. We do not need to follow in the footsteps of women pilots, journalists, or women anything. What we need to do is to just be our own woman. Letting those who have gone before us inspire us to be the most beautiful, brave, strong woman that we can be making our own choices and being proud of it.
Teasers from They Roared, soon to be published.
Elizabeth L. Gardner was an American pilot during World War II who served as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). She was one of the first American female military pilots and the subject of this well-known photograph of her, sitting in the pilot’s seat of a Martin B-26 Marauder.
Photo credit: National Archives
Elizabeth was twenty two when this photo was taken and the original rests in the National Archives. Other that the Marauder, she also flew the AT-23 bomber. She was trained as a test pilot and flight instructor. She did the usual testing of aircraft as well as flying training missions for the boys on the ground to shoot at, as she towed targets.
When the government unceremoniously disbanded the WASP before the war had ended, she returned to the private sector and was one of very few women who became a commercial pilot. She flew for Piper Aircraft in Pennsylvania. She was involved in public relations using her skills to write all of William T. Piper's speeches. Later she worked for General Textile Mills testing parachutes. She was forced to bail out of her craft several times because the parachutes were not working correctly. During one of these disasters she was unable to open her parachute until she was a mere 500 feet from the ground.
“I had two tools to fight injustice — words and images, my typewriter and my camera.”
Ruth Gruber was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 30,1911. Ruth was the fourth of five children, born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Gussie and David Gruber. When she was 20, she won another fellowship from the Institute of International Education. This fellowship sent her to study in Cologne, Germany. She earned a Ph.D., from the University of Cologne, in German Philosophy, Modern English Literature, and Art History, graduating magna cum Laude, in just one year, making her the youngest person to receive a doctorate in the world, at least at that time in history. The woman was brilliant.
During WW II she was handpicked by Secretary of the Interior, General Henry Ickes, to fly to Europe on a secret mission to help rescue Jews from further persecution. While giving her instructions, he explained, “You’re going to be given the rank of a simulated general. If you are shot down and the Nazis capture you as a civilian, they can kill you as a spy. But as a general, according to the Geneva Convention, they have to give you food and shelter, and keep you alive.” Hardly reassuring, but Ruth accepted the challenge.
There is so much more to her story both during the war when she rescued over a thousand Jews, and after the war as she continued her work for humanity. Her story is amazing from start to finish. You will just need to read They Roared to get the complete story!