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FIRST WOMEN DERBY PILOTS

Embry_Riddle hosts the 1929 derby women pilots! LEAVE A COMMENT / OCTOBER 5, 2021

Just recently, Kim Sheeter reflected on the First Women’s National Air Race which departed for Cleveland from Clover Field (now Santa Monica Airport) in 1929. Her informative article was published in Lift, the alumni magazine of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. The participating women pilots were guests of the Embry-Riddles Company when they landed in Cincinnati’s Lunken Field to refuel, make repairs, and pose for photo ops. It was the last stop before completing the air race in Cleveland. Fourteen of the original 20 women enjoyed Embry-Riddle’s ground support and the hospitality of T. Higbee Embry and John Paul Riddle. The company was delighted to have the opportunity to welcome the ‘powder-puff’ pilots, providing mechanics, free oil and gas, and protection for the aircraft. “Thanks to the company’s new public address system, the crowds heard directly from Earhart, Barnes, Thea Rasche, Blanche Noyes and the famous flying Ruths – Elder and Nichols. Elder shouted ‘Whoopee’ upon finding out she was the eighth to land the crowd roared . . . During the stopover, they compared notes on engine performance and checked maps. Earhart tended to a wicked sunburn and Rasche soothed an upset stomach with bottles of milk. “Hosting the derby was a publicity coup for Embry-Riddle which tapped into the excitement about the race to announce its new service to Cleveland. The company also recognized another potential market. A 1929 ad for Embry-Riddle Flight School promises, ‘Women will learn to fly to keep pace with progress, to express their new freedom, and now for the sport of it.’” As Amelia said, “We’ve been called powder-puff racers and lady bird, and perhaps even lady bugs, but no matter what they call us, you’ll note that the girls and women handle their ships just as competently as the male aviators.” (Although the article states Pancho Barnes spoke at Lunken Field, she was out of the race due to a crash in Pecos. She did ‘hop’ a ride in one of the Travel Air aircraft – so it is possible she was included in participating at the mike.) Sheeter, Kim. Riding the First Wave of Feminism. Lift, Spring/Summer 2021, p. 6-7.


Barbara Schultz,

Little Buttes Publishing Co.

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