Friday, March 12, 2010

Salute to the WASPS!

Betty Wall Strohfus, Faribault, MN
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

What a timely follow-up to my last post, a reprint of an article from the NWA NewsLetter of December 28, 1944, announcing the hiring of Florence Kerr as Director, Women's Division, traffic, promotion and public relations.
In the waning days of WWII, Northwest Airlines made a cutting edge decision to hire Florence for the purpose of getting women interested in aviation. As passengers, you understand, heaven forbid as pilots!
My, my. I do think they were on to something. Because women had already been showing an interest in aviation, they were flying military aircraft - yes flying, as opposed to riding in, all manner of bombers, fighters and even shouldering the unenviable task of towing targets for artillery practice. They were known as WASPS (Women's Airforce Service Pilots.)
About the same time Florence Kerr went to work for NWA in January 1945 as a promoter for women passengers, Betty Wall Strohfus (pictured above) found the same door firmly closed to the idea of a woman flying a commercial airliner. The WASP had been deactivated at the end of December, 1944 and when Betty returned home to Minnesota in 1945 she tried to get a job with Northwest Airlines. They said, "we don't hire women."
Nearly 200 surviving members of the WASP were honored in Washington D.C. on Wednesday and received the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation's highest civilian honors. Long overdue, but much appreciated.


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