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Fly girls : how five daring women defied all odds and made aviation history
2018
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Summary
A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

"Exhilarating." -- New York Times Book Review

" Riveting. " -- People

"Keith O'Brien has brought these women--mostly long-hidden and forgotten--back into the light where they belong. And he's done it with grace, sensitivity and a cinematic eye for detail that makes Fly Girls both exhilarating and heartbreaking." -- USA Today

The untold story of five women who fought to compete against men in the high-stakes national air races of the 1920s and 1930s -- and won

Between the world wars, no sport was more popular, or more dangerous, than airplane racing. Thousands of fans flocked to multi‑day events, and cities vied with one another to host them. The pilots themselves were hailed as dashing heroes who cheerfully stared death in the face. Well, the men were hailed. Female pilots were more often ridiculed than praised for what the press portrayed as silly efforts to horn in on a manly, and deadly, pursuit. Fly Girls recounts how a cadre of women banded together to break the original glass ceiling: the entrenched prejudice that conspired to keep them out of the sky.

O'Brien weaves together the stories of five remarkable women: Florence Klingensmith, a high‑school dropout who worked for a dry cleaner in Fargo, North Dakota; Ruth Elder, an Alabama divorcee; Amelia Earhart, the most famous, but not necessarily the most skilled; Ruth Nichols, who chafed at the constraints of her blue‑blood family's expectations; and Louise Thaden, the mother of two young kids who got her start selling coal in Wichita. Together, they fought for the chance to race against the men -- and in 1936 one of them would triumph in the toughest race of all.

Like Hidden Figures and Girls of Atomic City , Fly Girls celebrates a little-known slice of history in which tenacious, trail-blazing women braved all obstacles to achieve greatness.
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Booklist Review
Air races captivated the nation during the golden age of aviation in the 1920s and 1930s, and few participants drew more attention than the female pilots who challenged the male-dominated field. O'Brien focuses on five of those women: Ruth Elder, Ruth Nichols, Louise Thaden, Florence Klingensmith, and, of course, Amelia Earhart. In profiling these aviatrixes he explores their flying careers from the beginning, showing how varied their backgrounds and personal circumstance were and what attracted each of them to the sport of air racing. Drawing heavily from contemporaneous news reports, the author documents their achievements and setbacks as well as their sometimes complicated romantic relationships. The narrative flows easily from one subject to the next as O'Brien shifts between them, showing their competitive spirit and camaraderie even in the face of the trying circumstances of the first Women's Air Derby in 1929. Although Earhart's story has been recounted numerous times, the addition of the other female pilots makes for a more thorough and enjoyable read that should appeal to readers interested in history, aviation, and women's achievements.--Colleen Mondor Copyright 2018 Booklist
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