As we marked 125 years of women's suffrage in New Zealand, NZALPA remembers the pioneering female pilots who fearlessly braved the skies to prove themselves in the aviation industry.
New Zealand blazed the way in the fight for women’s rights as the first country to give women the vote in 1893. The United States followed suit in 1920, and this lead to other major social reforms for women across the globe.
Often dubbed the ‘suffrage in the sky,’ soon after aviators Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, Pancho Barnes and New Zealand’s own Jean Batten took to the skies and broke aviation records almost a century ago. Jean Batten earned her private pilot’s license in 1930, and went on to break multiple aviation records for her heroic solo flights during the 1930s.
She was the first woman to fly solo from Australia to England, and the first woman to make a solo flight from England to Argentina.
Jean was also the first pilot, male or female, to make the first direct solo flight from England to New Zealand in 1936. At 26, she made the journey in 11 days and 45 minutes in a single-engine plane – and held this record for 44 years.
Today, New Zealand has one of the highest number of female pilots* in the world
“We are proud to see more women take the controls in the cockpit and in the towers,” said NZALPA General Manager Dawn Handforth.
“There are more opportunities for training and support than ever before, but although we are leading against other countries, we want to encourage more women to take a lead role in the aviation industry.”
“NZALPA supports these efforts, including the dedicated women’s PAN network, but there is more employers and the wider industry can do to welcome female colleagues and the diversity and expertise they offer.”
* For example women make up seven per cent of Air New Zealand's pilots, against the global average of 5.2 per cent.
Five female firsts in aviation
1910 – Raymonde de Laroche was the world's first licensed female pilot.
1928 – Amelia Earhart became the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic.
1953 – Jacqueline Cochran was the first woman to break the sound barrier.
1963 – Valentina Tereshkova was the first female to have flown in space.
1964 – Geraldine Mock became the first woman to fly solo around the world.
Garden memorial pays tribute to women’s contribution during WWII
A number of rose gardens featuring special hybrid Floribunda varieties are being planted across the US in honour of the women who worked the home front during WWII.
The Rosie the Riveter Memorial Rose Dedication pays tribute to women who worked in factories and shipyards during the war, replacing the male workers who joined the military.
‘Rosie the Riveter’ was a cultural icon of World War II, with her call-to-arms slogan “We Can Do It!”, motivating the six million women who took war jobs over that period.
As part of a nationwide initiative, 36 Rosie the Riveter Memorial Rose Dedication gardens in 15 American states, are being established to celebrate the contribution of women.
The garden memorial at the March Field Air Museum in California is the latest one to be completed and was recently visited by NZALPA General Manager Dawn Handforth while on leave in the US.
In addition to the rose garden, the museum unveiled a full-size painted bronze sculpture of Rosie the Riveter - by artist Seward Johnson – one of only two across the country.
Dawn said that the project’s goal was to establish at least one memorial garden in each US Congressional District in time for the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, which will be in 2020.
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