Powder Puff Derby: Petticoat Pilots and Flying Flappers

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9780470851401: Powder Puff Derby: Petticoat Pilots and Flying Flappers

This book follows the early years of women aviators from the end of World War I through the madcap years of the 1920s to the establishment of aviation as a serious part of defense and commercial activities during World War II. Award-winning writer Mike Walker writes about a time of immense social and technical change that radically transformed the position of women and became the golden years for the development of aviation.

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From the Back Cover:

‘...being born was the first, and last, conventional thing she’d ever done in her life.’

What else would you expect from Florence ‘Pancho’ Barnes, the clergyman’s wife, who had earned her nickname riding a mule through a bloody Mexican revolution disguised as man? Pancho’s idea of fun involved taking unsuspecting young women up in her plane, rolling it over and tipping them out - parachute attached - to float terrified down to the ground, where her handsome lover would catch them in his arms.

Pancho was not alone. By the 1920s a whole generation of brave, even reckless, young women were breaking the ties that bound them to home, to convention and to the earth, and taking to the skies to claim their independence. Among them:

  • Jessie (Chubbie) Miller, the feisty Australian who, without ever having been in a plane, persuaded a man she barely knew to take her on as a mechanic - a skill she didn’t possess - for a world-spanning flight that ended in a sensational love triangle and murder trial in Miami.
  • Hanna Reits ch who wanted to be a flying doctor and ended up as a Nazi test pilot. She was the last person to fly into Berlin as Hitler crouched in his bunker and the Russians poured a million tonnes of high explosive onto the city.
  • Bessie Coleman, the first black woman to fly, who gained her licence in the face of incredible odds.
  • Lady Mary Heath, the hard drinking Anglo Irish aristocrat, who became a household name but died alone and in poverty.
  • Amelia Earhart, golden girl of the air, who was forced into taking one flight too many.

They were all stars and this is their story¼

From the Inside Flap:

Cowboy journalist, Will Rogers called it the Powder Puff Derby. After all, who had ever heard of such an outrageous idea as dames in planes? Worse, dames racing planes 2,700 miles from California to Cleveland. One reporter reckoned that far from finding the finishing line, the ‘girls’ would have trouble finding somewhere to powder their noses. He was wrong and one sunny day in 1929 nineteen young women set out to prove it.

The planes were primitive and the navigational equipment non-existent. Half the time, the pilots followed railway lines across the prairies, or arrows painted on barn roofs – and yet, despite crashes, sabotage and storms, they made it and encouraged women everywhere to demand the same freedom and independence that flying had given them.

Careless of their own safety and the prejudice of male pilots (‘the menace is the woman who thinks she should be flying... when she hasn’t the intelligence to scrub the floor’), they strove to break new records - for height, speed, endurance and distance. They became stars and, in the spirit of the age, flew for the sheer joy of it, blazing a vapour trail that future generations of women pilots would follow into the wide blue yonder.

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