Recently, a mainstream publisher has shown interest in publishing a second edition of They Persisted. I'm really excited about this because the first edition, while containing wonderful women, also contains typographical errors. The women are still fantastic, the errors embarrassing and made it quite difficult for me to market. I was less than thrilled with my first publishing experience! It was not good. That said, I have been reworking They Persisted and hopefully, it will be republished by a more reliable publisher and give the wonderful women within the pages proper attention, without annoying typos!
I've been immersed in research and writing for a new book, They Roared. Hopefully the same publisher will be interested. It has been slow going as I was pretty put off by the errors in the first book. It was downright discouraging! I'm over that and wanting to move forward. When I revisited the women of They Persisted, I felt the passion, the energy, the desire flow once again, to bring these woman into focus and out into the world again, without embarrassing typos. Yes, it really bothered me!
My plan originally was a trilogy. I envisioned that the second book would be about journalists, muckrakers and a few women test pilots. In the process of research that all seemed to change. The women of World War II, carried me away. I was often in awe, stunned and in awe again with who they were and what they accomplished. I felt that I was getting to know them. Somehow things took an entirely different turn at this point. I resisted mightily because I wanted the book to be uplifting and not a downer. I don't like war, reading or writing about it. However, I want the stories I have been coming to know to be told. Some are uplifting, some are sad, some tragic and some a combination. Some are pilots, some are journalists. I concluded that these women were speaking to me and that I needed to tell their stories whether happy or sad, they were all inspiring and need to be celebrated. In the last book, They Persisted, I drew only from women born in the 1800’s. This book is taking me somewhat outside of those perimeters. Once again, having begun this process it really feels as if the women are guiding me. I am just the conduit.
I have been researching through historical societies, museums, government archives, and college and university archives. I have found compelling stories, about women of grit, courage, tenacity and incredible bravery. Most of them I had never heard of. A few I knew, but barely. They fought the patriarchy every step of the way but they won out.
I began collecting women thirty years ago, and from my notes and files I have retrieved some. Others are finding me. While I am only in early stages, I am very excited about the stories I am finding and will share in They Roared.
Here is one piece from that explains a bit about the "Fly Girls." This will give you a taste of what will be developing! Yes, Violet and Mabel both have a chapter.
WOMEN IN FLIGHT
“THE FLY GIRLS”
WOMEN WHO SILENTLY CHANGED HISTORY
WASP (from left) Frances Green, Margaret Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn leave their B-17, called Pistol Packin' Mama, during ferry training at Lockbourne Army Air Force base in Ohio. They're carrying their parachutes.
During World War II, women pilots flew 80 percent of all ferrying missions. They delivered over 12,000 aircraft. WASP freed around 900 male pilots for combat duty during World War II.
The problem was simple, but would have disastrous consequences if left unsolved. The United States had entered World War II, and military aircraft were barreling off the assembly lines. But with many military pilots deployed overseas, or soon to be, there was no way to transport the planes from the factories to the airfields where they were urgently needed.
Today, women pilots fly for the airlines, fly in the military and in space, fly air races, command helicopter mercy flights, haul freight, stock high mountain lakes with fish, seed clouds, patrol pipelines, teach students to fly, maintain jet engines, and transport corporate officers.
Women have made a significant contribution to aviation since the Wright Brothers' first 12-second flight in 1903. Blanche Scott was the first women pilot, in 1910, when the plane that she was allowed to taxi mysteriously became airborne. In 1911, Harriet Quimby became the first licensed woman pilot. And in 1912, Harriet became the first woman to fly across the English Channel.
Violet Cowden was 26 when she earned her WASP silver wings in 1943. "I joined because of love for the country," she told The Times in 1993, "and I thought maybe I could contribute something to the war effort."
Mabel Virginia Rawlins joined because she wanted to do something to help out in the war effort. She gave her life to that end.
During World War II there was a shortage of pilots. An experimental program was set up to help fill the void. It was a gamble. Note well however, these women silently changed history. They were trained to fly military aircraft in order for male pilots to tend to combat duties overseas. It has often been noted that Eleanor Roosevelt heartily endorsed the program most likely because the inimitable Jacqueline Cochran wrote to her expressing her belief in the program and urging Roosevelt’s support.
In 1944, the first graduation ceremony for the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) transpired. The then commanding general of the U.S. Army Airforces, General Henry “Hap” Arnold, was not convinced. He was not certain that “a slip of a girl could fight the controls of a B-17 in heavy weather. “ He ate crow and at graduation said, “Now in 1944, it is on the record that women can fly as well as men!” Henry Harley Arnold was an American general officer holding the ranks of General of the Army and General of the Air Force.
More than 1,100 young women, all of whom where civilian volunteers, flew just about every type of military aircraft. This included the B-26 and the B-29 bombers. They flew planes long distances from factories to military bases and other departure points across the country. They flight tested newly overhauled planes, and test-flew damaged and repaired aircraft. They towed targets to give the ground and air gunners training shooting and this was done with live ammunition. While the women were doing the same job as men who were also civilian ferry pilots, the WASP were paid at two-thirds the rate of their male counterparts
Over 350,000 women served in the WASPS. In 1930 there were 200 some plots. In 1935 there were between 700 and 800. The flew a total of 60 million miles. But 38 female pilots did lose their lives serving their country. Twenty seven were killed on active duty missions and eleven died during training. Because they were not considered part of the military by the guidelines, a fallen WASP was sent home at family expense. Traditional military honors or note of heroism, such as allowing the U.S. flag to be placed on the coffin or displaying a service flag in a window, were not allowed either.
Initially, they put the cap on the age of recruits at 35 in order "to avoid the irrationality of women when they enter and go through menopause." At the time, the military had determined that age 40 was the time when menopause began, so if the war lasted more than 5 years, most recruits would just be entering the time of "debilitating irrationality.” The WASP were even grounded for a time during their menstrual cycles by male commanders because they believed they were "less efficient during menses.” This was stopped when flight records showed that this thinking was false. Some WASP were allowed to choose not to fly during menstruation and the pilots' periods were seen as a form of medical disability by military doctors.
On the military planes, there weren't facilities for the women to use the bathroom. When women were ferrying the planes, they had to touch down occasionally and women were not allowed to eat in some restaurants because they were wearing pants.
The military trained the male pilots. There was no such training program for the civilian, volunteer women. WASP recruits had to be between 21 and 35 years old, in good health, in possession of a pilot's license and 500 hours of flight time that they paid for themselves. The applicants all had prior experience and airman (airman?) certificates. Many women came from wealthy backgrounds or had husbands who helped pay for their expensive pilot training. All WASP recruits were interested in serving their country.
"They didn't want to bring in a bunch of girls who didn't know how to fly an airplane," says Katherine Sharp Landdeck, associate professor of history at Texas Woman's University, who's writing a book about the WASP, tentatively called Against Prevailing Winds: The Women Airforce Service Pilots and American Society. Texas Woman's University is the home of the WASP archives. She is a Guggenheim Fellow at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, where she earned her Ph.D. “So you have women who are getting out of high school and taking every dime they had to learn how to fly so they could be a WASP.”
Safety records for the women pilots were comparable and sometimes better than their mail counterparts. However in 1944 the program for women was threatened according to Dr. Landdeck. "It was a very controversial time for women flying aircraft. There was a debate about whether they were needed any longer.” Fearing the draft and being put into the ground Army, they lobbied for the women's jobs."It was unacceptable to have women replacing men. They could release men for duty — that was patriotic — but they couldn't replace men," Landdeck says.
Clearly there was a lot of discrimination going on in many different ways. Some male pilots and commanders were unhappy to have a women's presence in the traditionally male setting of the military. Some men "refused to acknowledge their ability," or that the men didn't trust the smaller women to be able to handle the planes. Some commanders would give out "undesirable" planes to the WASP to fly. One commander at Love Field was eventually formally admonished for treating the women unfairly.
Some believed that the women pilots were disliked because they "flew longer than the men (service pilots). We flew our tails off” said Pilot Teresa James. However, James also reported that she was sometimes "treated like a celebrity" when she stopped at Army bases for refueling. She said, "They had never seen a woman pilot in an Air Force airplane.”
Camp Davis at North Carolina had the most prejudice and discrimination for the WASP. The base commander, Major Stephenson, told the women that "both they and the planes were expendable.” Women at Camp Davis were unfairly evaluated in their flying, according to WASP, Alia Corbett. Women were not given practice time, unlike the men. Sabotage was suspected in some incidents at the camp and Cochran found traces of sugar in the engine at one WASP crash site. Two WASP women died in the line of duty at Camp Davis. Expendable? There were fourteen accidents involving improperly maintained towing planes at Camp Davis and planes at Camp Davis were found to be using the wrong octane fuel.
They flew over 60 million miles; transported every type of military aircraft; towed targets for live anti-aircraft gun practice; simulated strafing missions and transported cargo. Thirty-eight WASP members lost their lives and one disappeared while on a ferry mission, her fate still unknown as of 2018.In 1977, for their World War II service, the members were granted veteran status, and in 2009 awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.