They pushed the boundaries of human flight and sometimes pushed the boys out of their way to get there. The female pioneers of aviation still soar at the Ninety-Nines Museum of Women Pilots, 4300 Amelia Earhart.
Established in 1929 as an association for female aviators, the Ninety-Nines is an international organization of women pilots that has been permanently headquartered in Oklahoma City since 1975. Its 5,000-square-foot museum, which just underwent an extensive remodel, opened in 1999.
The organization took shape following the 1929 Women's Air Derby, a transcontinental flying race from Santa Monica, Calif., to Cleveland, Ohio. With a field comprised of female-only pilots, Oklahoman Will Rogers called the start of the race a "powder-puff derby," and the museum contains several artifacts from that contest.
Amelia Earhart, likely the world's most famous female flier, was instrumental in creating the Ninety-Nines organization. The museum's Earhart collection includes several items that belonged to the pioneer, who also served as the organization's first elected president. The display includes a pair of her goggles and the "lucky" bracelet she chose not to wear on her final flight. Several gifts Earhart received during her world travels are shown, along with photos and search charts used by rescue boats after her 1937 disappearance over the Pacific.
An Earhart scarf belonging to the museum recently returned from a trip to space aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. Astronaut Randy Bresnik, the grandson of Earhart's personal photographer, Alfred Bresnik, carried the scarf on the journey to the final frontier. The collection also includes several Bresnik photographs.
A special display recognizes the women from around the world credited as their country's first licensed female pilot. French aviatrix Raymonde de Laroche, who earned her wings in 1910, holds the distinction as the world's first female licensed to fly. The next year, Harriet Quimby became the first woman to earn a pilot's license in the United States and shortly after was the first woman to fly across the English Channel.
A World War II display highlights the wartime role of female aviators worldwide. Female pilots have also flown in more current conflicts, and the site displays a shrapnel-ridden section of fuselage from Air Force pilot Kim Campbell's A-10 Warthog that was damaged during a mission over Baghdad.
The collection of early-day gear includes leather flying helmets, goggles, pilots' licenses, flight suits and flight logs. The "Women in the Airlines" display tells of the changing roles women have played in the commercial airline industry, chronicling their climb from stewardess to captain. In the children's section, future fliers can soar into the clouds piloting a flight simulator.
From early-day barnstormers to astronauts who explore the stars, the museum boasts that it has assembled "one of the largest collections of artifacts and archival materials dedicated solely to the history of women pilots."
The museum is Monday through Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults; $3 for children 4-10. For more information, visit www.museumofwomenpilots.com.
Price writes online at www.travelblur.com.
photo Amelia Earhart walks in front of the Lockheed Electra 10E, circa 1937.