Ruth is a member of AAUW, the Association of American University Women. As such, she regularly organizes and promotes events that collect money for scholarships, especially for those females who are going into fields that involve math and science. Ruth avidly collects toiletries and underwear for women in prison. These are probably among the reasons why, when I asked her what she wanted to see in Oklahoma City, she chose the 99s Museum of Women Pilots.
Located very near Will Rogers World Airport at, appropriately, 4300 Amelia Earhart Road, 99s Museum of Women Pilots has one of the largest collections of historical women pilot artifacts around and is dedicated to exploring their history. For example, on display is a detailed explanation of Kansas-born Amelia Earhart’s life and career containing personal items donated to this museum by her sister.
This museum is a project sponsored by the 99s International Organization of Women, which currently has 5,500+ women pilot members who have their own scholarship and grant programs. It’s on the 2nd floor of 99’s International Headquarters and has a separate entrance that’s easy to miss. As Donna of Colorado said, “The sisterhood of the 99s is truly worldwide. No matter where in the world I am, when I see the interlocking 9s, I know I am among friends.”
The displays looked like they haven’t been updated much recently, but they were nevertheless interesting. However, I seldom had a chance to thoroughly examine anything because Ruth kept coming over to lead me to something she had found that she wanted to make sure I didn’t miss.
These rooms were full of info about a world I had virtually no knowledge of. I didn’t know that 27-year-old Harriet Quimby secretly took flying lessons at Alfred Moisant’s Aviation School on Long Island and in 1911 became the first US licensed woman pilot. Matilda Moisant was #2. Bessie Coleman was the 1st African-American woman pilot. The WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) of World War II had a Russian counterpart, the Night Witches. Bonnie Tiburzi became the first woman to earn a flight engineer’s rating with American Airlines in 1973 and has the honor of being the 1st commercial female pilot.
Amelia Earhart was the 1st woman to fly from Hawaii to Mainland USA. She landed at Oakland, CA. Her adventure surely inspired her 2 attempts to fly around the world. She died during the 2nd, and the vivid 99s display about her includes 4 provocative theories about what happened to Amelia.
Women in space exploration are honored in a New Frontier section with tributes to both the unknown female astronauts of the 1960s and the women involved in current Space Station programs. Space seems to be an area of flight history that has tended to treat woman as equals, and the tributes include profiles of some lesser known female astronauts, like Shannon Lucid who at one time held the record for the longest stay in space by any American.
But Shannon, Amelia, and Harriets’ contributions don’t equal Jacqueline Cochran’s. At her death, Jackie, the 1st woman to break the sound barrier, held more aviation records than any other pilot in history, male or female. Just ask Ruth.