In 1910, Raymonde de Laroche of France became the first woman to earn a solo pilot’s license. Just three decades after de Laroche earned her license, the world was engulfed in a terrible war. Aviation promised to play a critical role in the conflict. Seeing an opportunity to contribute their talents, female pilots lobbied their governments for a chance to serve.
Women in Aviation: World War II examines the wartime contributions of these pioneering women. American women took to the skies under the auspices of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, the Civil Air Patrol and aircraft manufacturing companies such as Grumman. Female pilots ferried airplanes from base to base. They tested powerful warplanes fresh off the assembly line and flew patrol missions around the country. Behind the scenes, female engineers helped produce rugged warplanes.
More than many women, female pilots challenged traditional ideas of what a woman could accomplish. At war’s end, society expected women to return to their quiet lives as wives and homemakers, and most women who hoped to continue their flying careers found little opportunity. Decades passed before America’s female aviators received formal recognition for their wartime service.
Women in Aviation: World War II features original artifacts including flight suits and gear, uniforms, pilot log books, archival materials and photographs. Vintage film footage shows women breaking records, winning air races, and training to serve their country.
The exhibition, opening on March 1st and running through July 8th, is free with general admission and will be located in the Hangar 2 Gallery.