A New York Times Bestseller * An Amazon Best Book of the Year * A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice * A Time Best Book for Summer
Between the world wars, no sport was more popular, or more dangerous, than airplane racing. While male pilots were lauded as heroes, the few women who dared to fly were more often ridiculed—until a cadre of women pilots banded together to break through the entrenched prejudice.
Fly Girls weaves together the stories of five remarkable women: Florence Klingensmith, a high school dropout from Fargo, North Dakota; Ruth Elder, an Alabama divorcée; Amelia Earhart, the most famous, but not necessarily the most skilled; Ruth Nichols, who chafed at her blue blood family’s expectations; and Louise Thaden, the young mother of two who got her start selling coal in Wichita. Together, they fought for the chance to fly and race airplanes—and in 1936, one of them would triumph, beating the men in the toughest air race of them all.
Journalist O'Brien (Outside Shot) tells the exciting story of aviators who, though they did not break the aviation industry's glass ceiling, put a large crack in it. He focuses mostly on five important fliers: Louise Thaden, a studious pilot, mother, and wife; Ruth Nichols, who was brave and willing to do anything to be the best; Amelia Earhart, the smartest of the bunch, with average flying ability, but the weight of powerful money behind her; Ruth Elder, gorgeous and bright, who went on to star in films; and Florence Klingensmith, a high school dropout and a naturally talented pilot and mechanic who could challenge the men head-to-head in speed racing. They fought against rudimentary technology, severe weather, and undermining men to accomplish their goals. Primary among their many antagonists in this account is Cliff Henderson, millionaire promoter and organizer of the national air races, who first manipulates women to promote his sport and then has them banned from competing in it. The women's victorious fight against his ban opens the door to even greater success and recognition as equals to men in the air. This fast-paced, meticulously researched history will appeal to a wide audience both as an entertaining tale of bravery and as an insightful look at early aviation.