Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys


Winner of:
2014 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
From the very first days of aviation, women were there. Katherine Wright, though not a pilot, helped her brothers Orville and Wilbur so much that some called her the “Third Wright Brother.” Pioneers such as Baroness Raymonde de Laroche of France ignored those who ignorantly claimed that only men possessed the physical strength or the ...

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Winner of:
2014 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
From the very first days of aviation, women were there. Katherine Wright, though not a pilot, helped her brothers Orville and Wilbur so much that some called her the “Third Wright Brother.” Pioneers such as Baroness Raymonde de Laroche of France ignored those who ignorantly claimed that only men possessed the physical strength or the mental capacity to pilot an airplane, and in 1910 became the first woman awarded a license to fly. A year later, Harriet Quimby was the first woman to earn a pilot’s license in the United States and in 1912 flew across the English Channel—another first.
           Author Karen Bush Gibson profiles 26 women aviators who sought out and met challenges both in the sky and on the ground, where some still questioned their abilities. Read about barnstormers like Bessie Coleman and racers like Louise Thaden, who bested Amelia Earhart and Pancho Barnes to win the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, sometimes called the Powder Puff Derby. Learn about Jacqueline Cochran who, during World War II, organized and trained the Women Airforce Service Pilots—the WASPs—to serve their country by ferrying airplanes from factories to the front lines and pulling target planes during anti-aircraft artillery training. And see how female pilots today continue to achieve and serve while celebrating their love of flight.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Soon after flying became possible, adventurous women wanted the thrill of being aloft. France led the way—the first licensed female pilot (in 1910) was Raymonde de Laroche, who made a perfect landing before Tsar Nicholas II and was dubbed "Baroness" on the spot. The first American woman to win a license was Harriet Quimby in 1911. Beautiful Bessie Coleman, an African-American pioneer, qualified in 1921, excelling at feats like loop-the-loops and barrel rolls. During the 30s and 40s, many more women took to the skies, winning air races, setting records and, like Amelia Earhart, publicizing possibilities for airline travel. Other celebrities include Louise Thaden, Women's Air Derby winner; Catherine Cheung, an early Asian-American pilot; and Beryl Markham, first African bush pilot and first person to fly west from England to North America. World War II provided many opportunities for aviators; fighting opposition from the military, women eventually ferried planes across the Atlantic, trained male pilots, and towed target planes for gunners. In Russia, women like veteran Soviet aviator Valentina Grizodubova even flew combat missions. Especially famous was American Jacqueline Cochran, who, after the war, became a successful cosmetics entrepreneur. Despite their proved abilities, women struggled to gain postwar jobs—not until the 70s did they become airline pilots. Gibson, whose enthusiasm for her subject shines through, is especially proud that women today are accepted in aviation and work as aerobatic-firefighters and air safety investigators, fly mercy missions, and found flying clubs for teens. Though Gibson includes fascinating historical information and has found a photograph for each flyer, her twenty-six brief biographies do not tell much about the private lives of the subjects and are sometimes awkwardly written. Still, Women Aviators offers a wealth of material for further research and inspiration for young women who dream of careers in flight. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
VOYA - Elaine Gass Hirsch
An introduction to the lives of twenty-six courageous and determined female pilots, Women Aviators presents engaging and informative biographical histories of women from the beginning of flight into the twenty-first century. While many people recognize Amelia Earhart as the most famous woman aviator of all time, this book also shares the stories of female pilots who are largely forgotten. These include Neta Snook, who taught Earhart how to fly; Raymonde de Laroche, who became the first female pilot in the world in 1910; and Bessie Coleman, the daughter of sharecroppers, who became the first African American woman to earn an aviation license in 1921. This is a fourth volume in the Women of Action series, which includes Women Heroes Of World War II (Chicago Review, 2011/Voya April 2011), a VOYA Nonfiction Honor List selection for 2011. Similar to the other titles in the series, Women Aviators is a worthy addition to school and public library collections. The presentation of little known historical figures should be interesting and accessible to a variety of ages and can lead readers to further substantive resources listed in sidebars and the bibliography. Reviewer: Elaine Gass Hirsch
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—At a time when flight schools did not accept female students, women paid for private lessons and persevered to overcome prejudice and mistaken beliefs that they were not strong enough or intelligent enough to fly airplanes. Five of the first six licensed women pilots were French, with the first one being Raymonde de Laroche in March 1910. The following year, photojournalist and world traveler Harriet Quimby was the first woman in the United States to earn a pilot's license; Bessie Coleman became the first African American with a license in 1921; the first Asian American was Catherine Cheung in 1932. Others profiled are Amelia Earhart and the woman who taught her to fly, Neta Snook, and Valentina Grizodubova, the "Soviet Amelia Earhart." Also outlined are specific achievements, including the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), serving as air safety investigators, test pilots, aerial firefighters, bush pilots, and airline pilots. Each short biography begins with an introduction and a photo. This well-written volume is a solid contribution to women's history collections.—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Mt. Carmel, IL
Kirkus Reviews
This collective biography profiles 26 women aviators from 1910 up to today. Most of the names will be unfamiliar with a few exceptions, among them Amelia Earhart, Beryl Markham and Bessie Coleman. The women are grouped into five time frames, providing context that defines the struggles, both physical and societal, that they faced as pilots. The book follows the format of others in the Women of Action series: Each minibio opens with a paragraph about its subject's accomplishment followed by a few, just-the-facts-ma'am pages about her life, a sidebar of relevant information and one photo, ending with a short bibliography. The 20 additional pages of backmatter that cite resources are indicative of the academic approach and the perfunctory writing style. While there is a hangar full of information here, the black-and-white interior (only the cover is in color) lacks reader appeal. Jeannine Atkins and Dusan Petricic's Wings and Rockets: The Story of Women in Air and Space (2003) has a bit more energy. Overall, a sensible if staid survey; its strength is in its breadth. (notes, glossary, bibliography, index [not seen]) (Collective biography. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781613745403
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/1/2013
  • Series: Women of Action Series
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 393,801
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Bush Gibson is the author of three dozen books for young readers, including Native American History for Kids.

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