Aviatrixes: female aviators from the earliest years of powered flight
September 17, 2013 2:50 PM   Subscribe

"In the early days of human flight, a new word entered our lexicon: "aviatrix," the female version of "aviator." These women were true pioneers, although if you asked them, they would probably tell you they were just adventurous and loved flying -same as the men who took to the air in those days." Mentalfloss profiles seven women from the first decades of airplanes. If you'd like more tales of adventure and daring, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum website has a section on women in aviation, as does the San Diego Air and Space Museum (related Flickr gallery).

If you want to dig around elsewhere, you can search for women profiled on Historic Wings, and 20th Century Aviation Magazine.
posted by filthy light thief (9 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting. thanks. i was surprised not to see Beryl Markham in any of those links
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:05 PM on September 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Woem pilots who turned bi wing planes upsdie down were thus said to turn trix
posted by Postroad at 3:12 PM on September 17, 2013

Wouldn't the plural be "aviatrices"?
posted by The Potate at 3:46 PM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have unending respect for early aviators (and aviatrices especially). The airplane was an unproven, rickety technology with minimal design planning, let alone safety. These people strapped themselves into an unknown thing with the hypothesis "This machine will allow me to stay aloft". The corollary is "If this fails, I will die."

Meanwhile, I was cranky this afternoon because I had to pump air into my bicycle tires prior to a short hop to the store.
posted by Turkey Glue at 3:55 PM on September 17, 2013

Seriously, no Lydia Litvyak?

This list sucks. In the '30s and '40s, Soviet women did it all in the air.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:03 PM on September 17, 2013

If you are visiting San Diego, I cannot recommend the Air and Space Museum enough. It's part of Balboa Park (where the Zoo is) and it's just fantastic. The only museum I've seen to equal it is, fittingly, the Smithsonian Air and Space--which filthy light thief also highlights. The Smithsonian is almost expected, though, and it's easy to forget San Diego's contributions to the aviation industry. The story of Bessie Coleman, especially, is well told.
posted by librarylis at 6:16 PM on September 17, 2013

By any standard of aviation experience and skill, unabashed Nazi and Hitler admirer Hanna Reitsch was a diminuitive, fearless, first rate pilot in a wide variety of fixed and rotary wing aircraft. The only woman awarded the Iron Cross in WWII, she is infamous for her postwar quote:
And what have we now in Germany? A land of bankers and car-makers. Even our great army has gone soft. Soldiers wear beards and question orders. I am not ashamed to say I believed in National Socialism. I still wear the Iron Cross with diamonds Hitler gave me. But today in all Germany you can't find a single person who voted Adolf Hitler into power. Many Germans feel guilty about the war. But they don't explain the real guilt we share — That we lost.
posted by cenoxo at 5:15 AM on September 18, 2013

This was a great quote from Ruth Law, when she flew in Joplin, "When asked why she flew, the bold aviatrix stated, “I fly because I like to. I like the feel of the air and I like to do things that other girls can’t.”

I think it was incredible that when something as novel and as new as piloting an airplane arrived in the world, distinct and unbreakable gender barriers had not quite yet congealed, and so women were allowed to do and enjoy something that otherwise would be "out of bounds" for them to do in the future.
posted by Atreides at 7:09 AM on September 18, 2013

Wouldn't the plural be "aviatrices"?

I believe you are correct.

This list sucks. In the '30s and '40s, Soviet women did it all in the air.

Yes, these links are very US-centric, though the Mentalfloss list includes a couple non-US ladies. In a sad attempt to remedy this shortcoming, here is the Wikipedia page on Women in the Russian and Soviet military, which notes a few pilots from WWI. My search for other female Soviet pilots from the early days of aviation found more references to the Night Witches than anything else.

For more information on (US) women in aviation: The Ninety-Nines, the first international organization of women pilots, founded in 1929 by 99 women pilots.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:26 AM on September 18, 2013

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