Blog Archives

Sarah Emma Edmonds (Edmondson/Franklin Thompson), Flint

by Heather Harris-Brady

Like a surprising number of Michigan women, Sarah Emma Edmonds (Flint) played an active combat role in the Civil War. Women were drawn into service through various ways – sometimes they would enter with a husband, brother or boyfriend; sometimes for the higher pay rate; and sometimes just because they felt it was their patriotic duty.

Sarah/Frank Thompson went in as a nurse April 25, 1861, volunteering for spy duties when a call went out from McClellan’s command. After some intense study she aced the interview and won the position. She used various disguises and completed 11 spying missions behind enemy lines in all.

Women who did not take part in combat supported the effort in other ways, raising funds for the soldier’s provisions and medical care through Sanitary Fairs.

More details
http://www.civilwarhome.com/edmondsbio.htm
http://userpages.aug.com/captbarb/femvets2.html
http://www.ncwa.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8&Itemid=11

Nancy Harkness Love (Houghton, MI) & the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS)

617px-Nancy_Harkness_Love_at_28

by Heather Harris-Brady

Photos: Wikicommons

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.

800px-B-17_Love

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.

The Military’s WASP Page

Wings Across America

WASP Museum

Harriet Quimby

Harriet Quimby is the perfect woman for my first post: she was born very close to here (in Arcadia, Michigan), she was a writer, photographer, race car driver AND the first woman in the US to receive a pilot’s license. She also did it with style, creating a one-piece purple flying suit so she would be recognizable. She was the first woman to fly across the English Channel, but as the Titanic sank two days earlier, the accomplishment got lost.

Flying captured the imagination of everyone in a way hard to imagine today. Flying clubs popped up across the globe, leading eventually to Amelia Earhart and the WASPs (Women’s Air Service Pilots) who we’ll take a look at another day.

Additional Links

Adapting outfits for flying

NPR’s Biography

National Aviation Hall of Fame

 

 

 

Thinking Ahead – Women’s History Month

by Heather Harris-Brady

Every year at our school the fourth grade puts on a wax museum in the spring where the students dress as a character from history and visitors must guess who they are.  The big names, like Amelia Earhart, are gone early.  I started to suggest a list of possible candidates: Florence Nightingale, Mata Hari, Anna Pavlova, Dolly Madison, and so on. My daughter looked at me with her big blue eyes.

“Mama, I don’t know who most of these are and no one else will either.” To be honest I was a bit shocked. But then again, women’s history is sadly neglected in my opinion.  This extends to the children’s bookshelves. The fact that it’s labeled as such at all sticks in my craw a bit, because in truth – as 50% of the population on this planet are we not as fully a part of history?

So, I am getting a head start on National Women’s History Month. I’ll be featuring some amazing women on this blog and I hope you’ll join me in helping our daughters get to know more about those who blazed the trail for us.

She still hasn’t decided who she’s going to be. Her big brother, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, suggested Marie Antoinette. . .

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