In August 1929, a talented group of female aviators spearheaded women’s rights when they participated in an all-woman nine-day, cross-country air race that kicked off in California.
Henry Ford had remarked, “I pay our women well so they can dress attractively and get married.” The women were fighting centuries of bias, but all of them were primarily interested in becoming successful fliers; changing the public’s opinion of women’s capabilities was a secondary outcome. Marvel Crosson, Amelia Earhart, Louise Thaden, Ruth Nichols, and others were among the 99 (nearly all white) licensed female pilots in 1929; the other 8,901 were men. Flying opportunities for women of color were even more sharply limited. (Only African American Bessie Coleman is mentioned in this account.) Sheinkin is a master at finding and following narrative hooks, as when he recounts the already highly controversial Women’s Air Derby, which became even more so when a pilot was killed in a crash that may have been caused by someone tampering with her plane. Although Sheinkin covers much of the same ground as Keith O’Brien’s Fly Girls (2019), this effort explores the 1929 race in detail, using that microcosm to reveal the lives of several of the early female fliers. Fascinating prose, a large number of period photographs augmented by Karman’s illustrations, and outstanding backmatter round out an engaging and enlightening presentation. Well-rounded collections should include both of these excellent resources.
Suspenseful, informative, and remarkably uplifting. (Nonfiction. 11-16)