Jacqueline Cochran

Jacqueline Cochran was board in the beginning of the 20th Century around Panama City, Florida.  In a true Rags to Riches story, she began life as the youngest of five children living in a poverty that was all too familiar to families of the time. By the end of her life she had become one of the most decorated females of her generation.

Cochran received her pilot’s license in 1932, after learning to fly in just two weeks. She quickly made a name for herself in aviation. She flew in the MacRobertson Air Race in 1934 and after working withAmelia Earhart to open the race for women,  was the only woman to compete in the Bendix race in 1937. Later that year, she also set a new woman’s national speed record.

She was the first person to make a blind landing and the set new transcontinental speed and altitude records

By 1938, she was considered the best female pilot in the United States. However, in 1939 the worlds focus was on Hitler’s troops in Germany.  Her offer to rally female pilots for the US war effort if needed was denied by General Arnold. But that did not stop her and Cochran took her talents to Great Britain.

In Britain, she volunteered her services to the Royal Air Force. For several months she worked for the British Air Transport Auxiliary, recruiting qualified women pilots in the United States and taking them to England where they joined the Air Transport Auxiliary. But  the spring of 1942 there was a severe shortage of male pilots. General Hap Arnold asked Cochran to return to the United States to train women pilots to fly America’s military aircraft. She was later appointed Director of Woman‘s Flying Training for the United States.

In 1943 Cochran was appointed to the General Staff of the U.S. Army Air Forces to direct all phases of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program at 120 air bases all over America.

After the war she continued to fly through the glass ceiling. In 1953 she was the first women to break the sound barrier.  By her death in 1980 she was world-renowned and  had used her avaiation talents and her personality to further women’s role in aviation.

Did I mention that she also owned her own cosmetic company?!

Other honors include:

  • In 1965, Cochran was invested in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame.
  • In 1971, induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
  • In 1992, Cochran was induced into the Florida Hall of Fame.
  • In 1993, induction in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
  • In 1996, the United States Post Office honored Cochran with a 50¢ postage stamp, depicting her in front of a Bendix Trophy pylon with her P-35 in the background and the words: “Jacqueline Cochran Pioneer Pilot.”
  • In 2006, Cochran is one of the inductees into the Lancaster, California Aerospace Walk of Honor, and the first woman to be inducted.
  • In 1999, Cochran was designated a Women’s History Month Honoree by the National Women’s History Project.

For more information:

 

National WASP WWII Museum  

US Flight Commission Biography 

PBS.org 

National Air and Space Museum

 

Batter Up! Women’s Baseball in Florida

To honor the beginning of Spring Training I decided to update with a post about the All American Girls Baseball League and their training in Opa-Locka, Florida.

With the shortage of men during WWII women stepped into roles unknown to them prior to the war. Women were riveters, newspaper reports, and even baseball players. In an effort to maintain the popularity of baseball until after the war, as well as keep American’s positive with their favorite base time, Philip K. Wrigley, the owner of the Chicago Cubs started the All American Girls Baseball League in 1943.

Wrigley began the team by converting the best of the softball players to hard ball baseball players. Hundreds of women went to tryouts in May 1943, and four teams were quickly formed: the Rockford Peaches, Racine Belles, Kenosha Comets and South Bend BlueSox.

Shortly after the league doubled in size to include Minneapolis Millerettes, Fort Wayne Daisies, Grand Rapids Chicks, Battle Creek Belles, Kalamazoo Lassies, and Springfield Sallies.

The league drew crowds from all over the nation, the players were actually good.  Pitcher Jean Faut won three pitching championships, and pitched two perfect games.

Sophie Kurys, nicknamed the “Tina Cobb” of the league, averaged 100 stolen bases a season and in one year stole 201 bases in 203 tries. Another player, Joanne Weaver hit .429 one season and won the batting title three years in a row. And Anabelle Lee, whose nephew Bill would one day pitch for the Boston Red Sox, once threw a perfect game for the Minneapolis Millerettes.

Though women were playing a traditionally male sport, they were still very much confined to society’s expectations as females. “Femininity is the keynote of our league,” said its new president. “No pants-wearing, tough-talking female softballer will play on any of our four teams.”  Wrigley hired a prominent cosmetics firms to host a ‘charm school’ for his players, and to give etiquette and charms tips off the field. The players were require to have chaperons accompany them from town to town and on each evening outing.

“Players were required to wear skirts, high heels, and makeup off the field; a fifty-dollar fine was levied for infractions if they were caught disobeying.” (PBS.org).  As a part of the leagues ‘Rules of Conduct’, the girls were not permitted to have short hair, smoke or drink in public places, and they were required to wear lipstick at all times.

One batter was called back to the dugout because she had forgotten her lipstick. The league lasted for 12 full seasons.

The All American Girls Baseball League was the first recorded professional women’s baseball league, however women have been playing baseball since the 1800’s. Vassar College hosted the first women’s baseball teaming in 1866, and Bloomer Girls teams (which sometimes included men) flourished from 1890-1930.  Additionally there were at least three female players, Toni Stone, Mamie Johnson and Connie Mogan,  in the professional Negro League.

The story of the All- American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPL) was recently popularized in the movie “A League of Their Own”, with Tom Hanks and Geena Davis. Though a highly fictionalized version of the league, it does portray the conception of the League and the era accurately.  “Baseball Girls” , a documentary by Louis Segal details the history of women’s participation in the male dominated sport, and dedicated much time to the League.

For more information:

Ivy J.C. Stranahan

Ivy Stranahan was born in White Springs on the Suwannee River, she came to Broward County by wagon in 1899 with her family.

After marrying  Frank Stranahan in 1900 she moved to the Indian trading post he founded. She spent much of her life serving as an intermediary between the Seminoles Indians and the white society growing around them. She taught Seminole Indians for 15 years informally, and worked to create income-producing systems for Seminole women by introducing their first sewing machines.

Video on Ivy Stranahan’s impact on the Seminole Indians:  Ivy Stranahan and the “Friends of the Seminoles”

She was a women ahead of her time in many ways. When Stranahan’s husband committed suicide during the Depression. she converted her home into a restaurant, and even took a course in real estate law to help defend herself against the seizure of all Stranahan properties. She served  as the president of the state suffrage league in 1917, she lobbied in legislature for the right of women to vote.

 

Ivy J.C. Stranahan was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996. The Stranahan House, a Fort Lauderdale museum, preserves her memory today.

For more information:

Stranahan House 

The Stranahans of Fort Lauderdale 

May Mann Jennings

One of the most powerful women in Florida history, May was born in New Jersey, but moved to Crystal River, Florida in 1874.  She married her husband Governor Sherman Jennings in 1891. As the First Lady of Florida she was extremely active in civic work, becoming the president of Florida’s Federation of Women’s Clubs. After campaigning for women’s suffrage, in 1920 she became the co-founder of Florida’s League of Women Voters.

She continued her civic work by campaigning for prohibition, better treatment of children and prisoners, highway beautification, historic preservation, Seminole Indian reservations, and education funding.

She was known as the “Mother of Florida’s Forestry” for her tireless work in ecological conservation, her part in creating Florida’s Board of Forestry. She helped created he 1,800-acre Royal Palm Hammock State Park, the eastern entrance to the current 1.5 million-acre Everglades National Park.

For more information:

Florida Memory Project 

May Mann Jennings Papers

Mary Mcleod Bethune

Mary Mcleod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune was born Mary Jane McLeod on July 10, 1875 in Mayesville, South Carolina.

After being sponsored at a mission school in South Carolina and receiving a scholarship to Moody Bible Institute, she moved to Daytona Beach in 1904 to begin her own school. Her one-room school became the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls and taught not only reading and writing but home economics skills as well.

Her school grew over the years until 1923 when it merged with Cookman Institute, a school for boys. The merged schools became known as Bethune-Cookman College and continued to be located in Daytona Beach where it is in operation today.

Bethune was active in the fight against racism and served under several Presidents as a member of the unofficial African American “brain trust.” In 1936 she was appointed by President Roosevelt as the director of the National Youth Administration’s Division of Negro  Affairs. She also founded the National Council of Negro Women and was an active member of the National Association of Colored Women. Bethune died in May 1955.

A statue of Bethune was erected in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. In 1985, Bethune was recognized as one of the most influential African-American women in the country with a postage stamp issued in her honor.

Faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service. Without it, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.

– Mary Mcleod Bethune

For more information:

http://www.ncnw.org/about/bethune.htm

http://www.usca.edu/aasc/bethune.htm