by Heather Harris-Brady
Nancy Harkness Love started out life as Hannah Lincoln Harkness in Houghton, Michigan. Born on Valentine’s Day, 1914 her life as the well-educated daughter of a wealthy physician could have taken a very different, more sedate path. But by the time she reached Vassar she was already a pilot.
When her husband was called into duty in 1942 the stage was ready. She, on a parallel path with Jacqueline Cochran, advocated for a women’s piloting branch in the military to help ease the shortage of pilots. Love headed the WAFS, an original group of 25 women who ferried planes from factories to airfields. In 1943 this group merged with Cochran’s group, the Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASPs). Often these women had to move planes that needed repair, and would sometimes have to fly without radios or other necessary equipment.
The squadrons disbanded in 1944, and were not recognized for their military service until 1977. Sadly, Love didn’t live to see it, she died the year before in 1976.
PBS aired an excellent documentary on the WASPs (both radio and TV), and there are several wonderful websites of information. I hope you’ll join me in helping our young people appreciate the amazing contributions of these female squadrons. Happily, there is getting to be a nice proliferation of info on the web in just the last few years.