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Women Aviators    by Karen Bush Gibson order for
Women Aviators
by Karen Bush Gibson
Order:  USA  Can
Chicago Review Press, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Everyone has heard of Orville and Wilbur Wright and what they did at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903, but what about Katherine Wright? The younger sister of the two aviation pioneers, Katherine has been largely ignored in this country, although the French dubbed her 'the third Wright brother' and awarded her the Legion of Honor.

Katherine was not only the only member of the family to graduate from college but she arranged for volunteers to assist her brothers with their flying machine; she cared for Orville after he was hurt in a crash; and she was an officer the Wright Brothers Company.

The fact that women for many years were largely ignored and considered too weak and not intelligent enough to fly is debunked in Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Breaking Journeys by Karen Bush Gibson.

In short, entertaining chapters the author shares the fascinating stories of barrier-breaking women who proved time and time again that females could not only handle an airplane but also do just about anything their male counterparts could do.

The reader will meet Harriet Quimby, the first woman to fly across the English Channel; Neta Snook, the person who taught Amelia Earhart to fly; and Elinor Smith, a teenager who had the distinction of being the first pilot to fly under New York City's four bridges in 1928.

After making headlines at seventeen with her bridge stunt, Smith went on to set flight endurance, altitude and speed records, and be chosen as the Woman Pilot of the Year by her peers.

Some of the other interesting aviatrixes include Katherine Chenung, the first licensed Asian American pilot; Hanna Reitsch, the world's first female test pilot; aerobatic firefighter Patty Wagstaff; and missionary pilot Jerrie Cobb.

As Gibson explains in the book's introduction, 'Today, women pilots fly for the airlines, in the military, and in space. They fly air races, command helicopter mercy flights, haul freight, stock high mountain lakes with fish, seed clouds, patrol pipelines, teach others to fly, maintain jet engines, and transport people.'

Women have come a long way since Katherine Wright assisted her brothers, and Baroness de Laroche was the first woman to earn a pilot's license in the early 1900s in France.

In this account of some very remarkable women who refused to remain grounded and took to the air with abandon, you'll also find some vintage photos and intriguing sidebars, plus a list of resources for further reading.

Part of the Women in Action series, this book is aimed at readers twelve years of age and older, but any adult interested in aviation or women's studies will also find it worth reading.

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