1929 Letter from Opal Kunz
While volunteering at Headquarters in Oklahoma City, I went through some archives and found this great letter written only weeks after the organizational meeting in New York. I think it provides one woman's opinion of why a "girl pilot's club " was needed, and the possible future roles of "girl pilots." It is in many ways prescient of the future: women as commercial pilots, as ferry pilots during wartime, and how women want to add to men's contributions, not usurp them. All this -- in 1929.
-Jenny Beatty, Ambassador Chapter
December 31, 1929
Cecilia M. Kenny, Buffalo, New York
My Dear Mrs. Kenny:
The impression seems to have gone out that we girl pilots have some sort of conflict with the men pilots. This is exactly the opposite to the facts. We want no militant girl pilots. We are not fighting for anything. We are not striving for any more consideration than we have already received. As a matter of fact, we are trying to bring about a different attitude toward the girl in aviation, whereby, she is accepted as an equal rather than spoiled as something rare and very precious.
So far the girl fliers have received much more gratitude than we deserve in proportion to our achievements. Our slightest accomplishment is hailed as a great feat. For many years men have been doing marvelous things in the air. The aviators in the war accomplished feats and made records that surely no woman can ever hope to attain. We believe that our girls can and will learn to fly as well as the average man, better than many, but it does not seem likely that we will ever equal the remarkable skill of countless men fliers both in our own country and abroad.
In this organization of ours it is hoped that we can encourage girls to enter flying schools with the determination not to accept any special consideration because of her sex. She must make up her mind to learn to do her own work; to accept no quarter from the men, and thereby, learn to be useful. Women have a future in aviation only so long as we prove to be of value. This does not mean publicity value. At present our strong point seems to be that because there are so few of us doing this work, we receive more attention from the public and the press than men who do the same work, and better work. For this reason many girls receive high salaries and fine positions because it is thought they are more valuable from a publicity angle than a man would be in the same position. This will not always be true, for the world will gradually expect women to fly. It will no longer be news of first page interest when a woman takes to the air. When this time comes, girls will have to demonstrate their real ability on a large scale, if they expect to hold their own. This we have not yet done. Some outstanding women have accomplished notable things, but no woman has accomplished anything to compare with the many marvelous things done by the great men pilots. We have no quarrel with the men. They have given us our training. We feel only the deepest gratitude to them for their wonderful patience and their inspiring example.
By trying to eliminate the sex idea in flying, we are not seeking advantages, but are trying to learn more by working shoulder to shoulder with our men, and by becoming self-reliant, for when we fly solo they are not with us to help in case of emergencies. We have only our judgment to rely upon and if we have not learned to do our own thinking serious difficulties will come about. For our own protection we must all learn to think for ourselves, to rely on ourselves, and to do as much work as possible on our planes.
It must be remembered that this club is for all licensed girl pilots. The new girls have just as much right as those who flew in the Derby. We want your ideas. Won't you take an active interest in this and send us your suggestions? An envelope is enclosed for your reply.
It is earnestly hoped that this girl pilots' club can line up decidedly for national defense. In any emergency, either in peace time or war time, an efficient corps of girl fliers could be of real service to their country. In a devastated flood area or a section destroyed by fire, or any other difficulty that might arise in peace time, women could carry supplies to devastated areas, they could act as dispatch fliers, and be really useful. They could release men for work requiring greater skill than they already possess. In war time girls could fly hospital ships, ferry airplanes, do dispatch flying of various sorts, carry passengers in some cases, and the best of the girls might possibly fly well enough to carry the Government mails. Many of these things, however require the utmost skill and long years of experience. Our men have demonstrated all these fine qualities. They are flying every day thousands of miles in all kinds of weather and without the slightest attention from either the public or the press. If we would approach them in usefulness and skill, we must learn to fly in this same self- sacrificing way, without hope of big rewards. This is a high goal to strive toward, but it gives us a star to shoot at. It should be an inspiration to all American girls to learn to fly, to develop skill, and fit ourselves for the splendid work ahead in aviation.
Yours for a most successful New Year and happy landings.
Opal Kunz, Acting President