London: John Long, . First edition. With twelve plates (including frontispiece) of black-and-white aerial photos. Some foxing to edges. Some toning to first and last few leaves. A very good copy of an uncommon book that is rare in the original pictorial dust jacket (printed in black and orange with illustration of a biplane, very good). Publisher’s dark red cloth, spine titled in gilt. Octavo. 223 pp. Item #16978
In 1924, a ruling by the International Commission for Air Navigation barred women from piloting commercial planes carrying passengers on the grounds that women were supposedly not physically equipped to fly. The ruling prevented Lady Sophie Catherine Heath, née Peirce-Evans (1896 – 1939), from achieving her pilot’s license. Heath responded by performing tests by the commission to prove that women could fly; her efforts may have contributed to the reversal of the ruling in 1926. That year, Heath became the first woman to hold a commercial pilot’s license. The present work recounts the campaign by Heath, as well as Stella Wolfe Murray and Lady Mary Bailey (1890 – 1960), to reverse the ruling, as well as the aviation feats of these pilots and a remarkable history of women in aviation (pp. 19-29).
Heath achieved many aviation firsts, including becoming the first person to fly a small open-cockpit aircraft from Cape Town to London (detailed in chapter ten) and the first woman to parachute from a plane. Bailey was the first person to fly solo from London to Cape Town and back and the first person to fly over the Irish Sea. Together, Heath and Bailey set the altitude record for a two-seater light airplane in 1927. Murray, along with her aviation pursuits, was a journalist who became the first woman correspondent admitted to the British Parliament press galleries. Emilie Hinchcliffe, née Gallizien, widow of Captain Walter Hinchliffe (1893 – 1928), contributes a chapter on her experiences as the wife of an airman.