Vision and Determination
In times of uncertainty and turmoil, when my world seems alien to me and falling apart, I find great solace in the lives of those who have gone before me. This is why I find women’s history so exciting. I find women that I have not known about previously and marvel that they could have stayed buried and unsung as the heroes they are. The women who chose me for They Roared are prime examples of truly brave, tenacious women. Women who had a vision and the determination to live that vision. I have really enjoyed meeting them, learning about them and sharing them with you. I hope you find inspiration here as well.
She was born in a backwater town in Florida, into poverty and a questionable home life. At seven years of age, she began working 12-hour days in a cotton mill, for twelve cents an hour, advancing to supervising other children, making a little more money. At nine, she was cleaning, cooking, and midwifing. Other memories included having no shoes until she was eight, sleeping on a pallet on the floor and wearing dresses made of old flour sacks. By the time she was twelve, she begged for a chance to do odd jobs at a local beauty parlor. At ten, she was cutting hair professionally, making wigs, and giving shampoos. By the age of 14, she was married.
This woman was the lynchpin behind the establishment and the success of the Women’s Auxiliary Service Project (WASP). Jackie Cochran was a force to be reckoned with. She trained, protected and guided her women and flew just about every plane there was.
After the war, jet aircraft were being introduced, and they were setting many records. Jackie flew these new planes and was the first woman pilot to “go supersonic.” She was the first woman to break the sound barrier.
Teresa "Jamesy" James
Teresa James was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on January 27th, 1914. When she was a young child, she witnessed a plane crash and her brother, Francis, nearly died in a plane crash, so she had a fear of flying as she entered adulthood. But she also had a crush on a pilot named Bill. He invited her to go for a ride and she screwed up all her courage and she went. Still wanting to impress her crush, pilot Bill, she learned to fly when she was 19. Young love conquered fear. During her first lesson, she noted:
“That airplane had no airspeed indicator — your own ears and the singing of the wind in the wires told you how fast you were going. There was an oil gauge and an altimeter on what passed for an instrument panel. The fuel gauge was a wire on a bobber. The Travel Air had no brakes — I found that out when he had me land it. And no tail wheel, just a skid, which was fine because we were landing on grass. You had to learn how to taxi.”
She got her certification, went into business with a friend as stunt pilots, and later she joined the WASP. In 1944, Teresa had to be tested in the P-47 Thunderbolt, a 2,800-HP fighter-bomber. “The male pilots told me that it was a hard airplane to fly…never having flown a plane with that kind of horsepower in a single-seat pursuit aircraft, that it would be hard to handle. I don’t know what they meant by that. I think that half of Washington, D.C., was up there to see if I was going to splatter myself all over the runway. To me, it flew like a little old Cub.” James was one of the first women in the WAFS and was assigned the first long-distance solo mission.
On one “quick trip,” in 30 days, Teresa flew 11,000 miles, stopping at 17 states. As she had only prepared for a “quick trip”, she noted she did not smell too great by the time she finally got home, and vowed never again to believe any dispatcher who told her that she would be “right back.”
For a more complete peek into the lives of these amazing woman, you will have to read They Roared!