The Roaring Twenty: The First Cross-Country Air Race for Women

The Roaring Twenty: The First Cross-Country Air Race for Women

by Margaret Whitman Blair
     
 

Adventure, excitement, and fearlessness take wing in the dramatic true story of the twenty aviatrixes who set off on the first Women's Cross-Country Air Derby. Readers will thrill to the feats of "the roaring twenty," the daredevil pilots who pioneered women's aviation in this 2800-mile race from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1929.

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Overview

Adventure, excitement, and fearlessness take wing in the dramatic true story of the twenty aviatrixes who set off on the first Women's Cross-Country Air Derby. Readers will thrill to the feats of "the roaring twenty," the daredevil pilots who pioneered women's aviation in this 2800-mile race from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1929.

This cross-country odyssey was the first of its kind: nine days of grueling endurance that was dismissively dubbed the "Powder Puff Derby" by the press. Yet the American public was captivated.

The nation already knew and loved Amelia Earhart, and it soon warmed to such colorful characters as the cigar-smoking stunt flyer Florence Pancho Barnes, former wing-walker Phoebe Omlie, and New York society rebel Opal Kunz. The experienced adventurer Marvel Crosson was one of the early favorites—until her mysterious disappearance. Americans eagerly followed the daily drama, charmed, then shocked, as the race left a twisting trail of intrigue in its slipstream.

Relive the intense competition and the death-defying dangers: stormy weather, mechanical challenges, typhoid fever, and even the suspicion of sabotage. The views of a condescending and often hostile press are recounted, as well as the heroines' glamorous appearances at balls and banquets during their soaring nine-day escapade.

This real-life tale also provides a bird's-eye view of a feverish period in American social history, as women redefined their roles throughout the "roaring '20s" and the country partied through the Jazz Age before crashing back to Earth with the Depression.

Superbly illustrated with fifty evocative duotone photographs, and featuring a detailed National Geographic map of the route, this is a book to capture the imagination and dreams of young girls from coast to coast.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Dubbed "The Powder Puff Derby" by Will Rogers, the Women's Cross-Country Air Race of 1929 not only represented a step toward gender equality in this country, but it paved the way for aviation as we know it. I had never heard of this event before reading about it. The only early American aviatrix with whom I was familiar was Amelia Earhart. Earhart does indeed feature in the book, but along with her are nineteen other bold, inspirational women who risked their lives to follow their dreams and challenge the stereotypes of a nation. Along the way, they also formed a strong community with one another. The Roaring Twenty, through quotes, prose, photos, and historical artifacts, follows the ground-breaking, eight-day race from it's beginning in Santa Monica, California, to it's finish in Cleveland, Ohio. Along the way, readers get to know some of the individual participants, a thing or two about early aviation, a great deal about our nation in the Twenties, and, in the end, how these women helped to change the world as we know it. The book is divided into chapters, and ends with biographical information about the participants, a women's aviation time line, a resource guide, and bibliographic information. 2006, National Geographic, and Ages 11 to 15.
—Courtney Angermeier
VOYA
With pink-tinted photographs, this book offers a detailed look at the first "Powder Puff Derby" run in the summer of 1929. Source notes, inset maps, brief bios, a resource guide, an aviatrix time line, and an introduction by one flyer's daughter make it a nice homework title, but the story also stands on its own. Starting in Santa Monica, California, and ending in Cleveland, Ohio, the women flew over deserts and mountains, rough terrain that would challenge any flyer of the day and worried the race officials. To make matters worse, from the start of the nine-day race, sabotage and mechanical failures were constant worries. One of the favored flyers, Marvel Crosson, died early on, a victim of just such a mechanical problem. Weather and spectators eager to see the women and check out the planes also complicated matters. A collision with a spectator's car took one contestant out of the race. It was an all-star event with racers including Amelia Earhart, "Pancho" Barnes, and Louise Thaden. A brief prologue sets the stage, introducing the 1920s and the rise of aviation and women's rights. The photos of flyers, landscapes, and memorabilia bring the story to life. This book is a welcome addition to public or school libraries and a nice companion piece for an Amelia Earhart biography or women's rights profile such as Ann Bausum's With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight For a Woman's Right to Vote (National Geographic, 2004). VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, National Geographic, 128p.; Index. Photos.Maps. Biblio. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology., Ages 11 to 18.
—Brenna Shanks

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780792253891
Publisher:
National Geographic Society
Publication date:
02/14/2006
Series:
National Geographic Series
Pages:
112
Sales rank:
1,438,393
Product dimensions:
7.42(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.54(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Margaret Whitman Blair lives in Rockville, MD. A retired Peace Corps volunteer, she was formerly an international trade and business journalist in Washington, DC. Her previous books include three young adult titles about the Civil War.

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