Flying Solo and Daredevil: Picture Book Biographies of Women Aviators
At the age of twenty-three, Ruth Elder, “a beauty queen with a sparkling personality, a smile as bright as a toothpaste ad, and plenty of pluck,” set out to do what no woman had done. She had her heart set on becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Despite the newness of airplane travel and the predominant sentiment that women had no place in the cockpit, Ruth was determined. On October 11, 1927, almost five years before Earhart’s 1932 crossing, Ruth and her flying instructor, George Haldeman, took off intending to land in Paris. Two thirds of the way there, an oil line ruptured on the plane, forcing them to abandon the plane. Ruth was undaunted, “she never lost her courage or her lipstick.” Readers of Julie Cummins’ picture book biography of this spunky aviatrix will thrill to Ruth’s aspirations and adventures, cheering her as she goes on to participate in what would be known as the Powder Puff Derby, America’s first women’s cross country air race. Malene Laugesen’s soft pastel images capture Ruth’s femininity and spirit and provide a strong sense of historical context. This title provides an excellent introduction to this lesser known figure in women’s aviation history.
Women in Flight Today. Ruth Elder, Betty Skelton, and their aviatrix counterparts were pioneering, yet women today still face equity issues. After reading Daredevil and Flying Solo, have students investigate the number of women who are pilots today in the public sphere, such as the military, and private sectors, such as personal and airline pilots. How many women in the space program today started out as airplane pilots? What might be the incentive for women to become pilots? What disincentives are there? In today’s work climate, how are women pilots treated compared to their male counterparts? Is the current economy impacting female pilots more than male pilots?
Filed under: Biography & Memoirs, Nonfiction Picture Books, Picture Books
About Erika Thulin Dawes
Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.
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