The Wright Brothers designed and flew the first airplane in 1903 - for all of a few seconds. It took several more years before aviation technology had progressed to the point where the average person could fly one of the rickety craft.
Well, "average person" is perhaps a misnomer. Pilots during the early years were anything but average. Aircraft design was still in its infancy -- the Wright brothers had shown the way, but were very quickly inundated with competitors, both in the United States and around the world -- and planes were very fragile. Early planes didn't even have a cockpit. A pilot sat on the bottom wing of the two wing craft, with a couple of joysticks for maneuvering...and no seatbelt.
But adventure seekers flocked to this new technology. And among them were plenty of women who wanted the same thing as their male counterparts - to earn their living as pilots. Even more than men, female pilots were unusual. In the early 1900s, women simply weren't supposed to be adventurous. Their role in life was circumscribed - to be a wife and a mother. If for some reason they didn't get married, they would act as surrogate mothers to their relative's children, and feel ashamed of their unmarried state. There were several women who broke the mold, but they oftentimes faced ridicule and scorn from the society of the day.
Human beings being competitive by nature, competition over the new technology began at once. Who could fly fastest? Highest? Longest? Who could be the first to refuel a plane in the air? To fly from this point to that point? Women pilots desired to set the same records the men did - even though in the books they were divided into male and female records.
And records, in aviation's infancy, were set one day and broken the next. But there was one achievement - one feat - that was accomplished by a woman pilot - and by no one else, male or female, in all of aviation history.
The story of that accomplishment is told by Tami Lewis Brown in the new children's illustrated book,Soar, Elinor.
Courtesy Elinor Smith
Elinor Smith met with author Tami Lewis Brown many times before she passed away (on March 19, 2010, at the age of 99!), and Elinor has these words of advice for future generations: "Children must be allowed to dream and have a horizon to work toward. For me there was only one path: I knew from age six that I wanted to fly. Flying was the very breath of life to me and I was successful because I loved it so much."
I recommend this book highly.
Author Tami Lewis Brown and pilot Elinor Smith
Photo by Zu Vincent
All text © 2010 Volcano Seven unless otherwise credited.
All illustrations retain original copyright.
Please contact us with any concerns as to correct attribution.
Any questions, comments or concerns contact Volcano Seven.