Source: Daily Reflector Negative Collection (Manuscript Collection #741)
Staff Person: Martha Elmore
For decades women faced tremendous hurdles in their desire to become pilots. In the early years they weren’t allowed to enter into competitions such as the National Air Race because these races were thought to be too dangerous for women. In 1929 women pilots held their first National Women’s Air Derby. Humorist Will Rogers, who was the starter for the race, referred to the women pilots as “petticoat pilots and flying flappers” and nicknamed the race the Powder Puff Derby.
This photograph shows a group of women welcoming Petticoat Pilots to the airport at Greenville, North Carolina, in August of 1965. I don’t know what the occasion was for this group of women pilots gathering, but it is interesting that the nickname for women pilots in 1929 was still being used in 1965.
Information about the Powder Puff Derby came from Karen Bush Gibson’s book titled, Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys.