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Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History (2018)

por Keith O'Brien

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2691973,263 (3.92)15
"High adventure and high ideals merge when a corps of intrepid female aviators battle to take part in the hugely popular air shows of the 1920s and 1930s. Ultimately, one of our heroines would win a race that earned her the right to be called America's best pilot"--

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This true history reads almost like a novel, and O'Brien has a fine eye for the details that bring these individual women alive on the page. Maybe that's why this book broke my heart a bit. (A spoiler here: we all know that Amelia Earhart dies. All but one of the other four women die in ways that are either similarly violent or quieter tragedies.) The four other women he follows are Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Ruth Nichols, and Louise Thaden. Although they hail from different parts of the US and disparate economic situations, each woman faces the challenge of trying to be taken seriously as a pilot in an age when men were making statements like "If women spent more time making homes pleasant and less time trying to get men's jobs there would be less domestic trouble ... The world would be happier" and "Our experience has disclosed the fact that most women have insufficient mechanical ability and little desire to observe and learn." Arg.

Unsentimentally engaging and well researched, this book is for readers of Hidden Figures and anyone who wants to learn more about the 1930s and recovered women's histories. One of my favorite lines is the one O'Brien puts on the frontispiece, from Louise Thaden: "If you will tell me why, or how, people fall in love, I will tell you why, or how, I happened to take up aviation." ( )
  KarenOdden | Jun 7, 2020 |
Even though I typically stick to Sci-Fi/Fantasy-type reads, I do have eclectic taste, and when I venture out into the wild west of historical nonfiction, I typically really enjoy stories of women defying the odds and making gains in society.

I really liked how this book followed many well-known (and some not-as-well-known) female aviators from the 1920s and 1930s. Yes, Amelia Earhart was included (and, to be honest, the only name that rung any sort of bell for me...), but she was not alone. There were so many surprising stories in this book, and I really liked learning about this important period of women's rights.

For similar, yet different, books about women's important roles in the shaping of our history, I would also recommend similar books such as Hidden Figures, The Radium Girls, The Woman who Smashed Codes, and The Woman's Hour, all of which were similarly fascinating and fantastic reads.

Thank you to LibraryThing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  Allison_Krajewski | Feb 20, 2020 |
What a great job O'Brien does in describing the women aviators of the 1920s to 1950s. Amelia Earhart was, of course, the star though in comparison to some of the others, it's hard to know why. At first, the star was Ruth Nichols, a pretty girl from a rich family. Then there were Louise Thaden, Ruth Elder, and Florence Klingensmith - such impressive women! As with all other occupations, these women were disregarded and hindered from advancement at every turn. They were mocked, and it was likely their planes were sabotaged. If they crashed in inferior planes they were consistently blamed, yet men who did the same were honored. If they got lost, which was a regular occurrence in early aviation, it was because they were silly, easily distractable women. When men pilots got lost, it was unfortunate. I don't know how they managed to carry on against such disdain, but they loved to fly. The book is both inspirational and infuriating. Once again we see the personal damage done to people who fight against stereotypes. ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Oct 14, 2019 |
I love non-fiction books that introduce us to unknown people in history who should be better known. Other than Amelia Earhart I had no idea that women were a part of early aviation. ( )
  brangwinn | Oct 13, 2019 |
If all you know of early aviation is the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart, this is a fascinating book. The author tells the story of the history and rivalries of the men and women who risked their lives to push the development of aeronautics forward in the early 20th century in a style that's approachable and engaging. The book tells the tale from the point of view of the women, who were often sidelined by the men who controlled the races that brought fame and fortune to early fliers. While covering many early aviators it focuses on five particular women, and only disappoints at the end - when the author, surprisingly, resorts to the tired trope of reviewing the lives of the five only to conclude that the only female flyer to find happiness and peace was the one who ultimately gave up flying to be a devoted mother to her children. ( )
  OliviainNJ | Sep 13, 2019 |
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If you tell me why, or how, people fall in love, I will tell you why, or how, I happened to take up aviation.
- Louise Thaden, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 1930
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In 1926, there were countless ways to die in an airplane. (Introduction)
The coal peddlers west of town, on the banks of the Arkansas River, took note of the new saleswoman from the moment she appeared outside of the plate-glass window.
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"High adventure and high ideals merge when a corps of intrepid female aviators battle to take part in the hugely popular air shows of the 1920s and 1930s. Ultimately, one of our heroines would win a race that earned her the right to be called America's best pilot"--

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