Friday, November 29, 2013

Trailblazer: Aviator, Elinor Smith

Fearless Flyer: Elinor Smith's Daring Dive Under the Bridges of New York
by Carol Simon Levin

Elinor Smith
Photo from
     Elinor Smith got her first taste of flying when she was just six years old.  A French pilot was advertising flights above a potato field on Long Island and she begged her father to go up for a ride.  From the first moment in the air, she was hooked.  She started taking flying lessons at age ten, soloed and set a world light plane altitude record at age fifteen, and got her pilot's license at sixteen  -- becoming the youngest licensed pilot, male or female, in the United States.   Her license was signed by Orville Wright.
     But the press and other pilots doubted her abilities.  Newspapers called her the "Flying Flapper." A stunt pilot who had crashed his own plane bet "that kid with freckles who they let fly around every day" couldn't fly under a New York City East River bridge... she replied she'd fly under all four!
     No one had ever done that before -- for good reason.  It was dangerous – gusts of winds could hurl a small plane into  bridge pillars.  It was also illegal – Elinor could lose her newly acquired pilot’s license.  But Elinor carefully inspected the route,  studying the tides,  the construction of the bridges, and calculating speed, distance & weight.  She joked, "I hung by my heels from all those bridges."  She also practiced weaving between sailboats on Long Island Sound.
    On a bright  Sunday Oct. 21, 1928, as she prepared to take off in her father’s Waco 9 airplane, she felt a tap on her cockpit. Charles Lindbergh grinned at her, “Good luck, kid, keep your nose down in the turns.”
     Despite her preparation, she encountered surprises -- wooden blocks dangling below Queensboro bridge deck forced her to fly just above the water's surface.  She glided uneventfully under Williamsburg Bridge, then dipped under the Manhattan Bridge, where she saw a huge crowd of spectators and newsreel reporters  (so the government would have proof  of her illegal flight).
     Finally all that was left was the Brooklyn Bridge – but as she flew under the bridge, she saw that both a tanker and a navy destroyer  were heading right toward her!  Elinor tipped her plane on its side and just managed to squeeze through! 
     Heady with success, Elinor circled the Statue of Liberty before landing in Roosevelt Field to cheers from family and friends. She had succeeded -- but what about her  license?
     Eight days later,  New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker summoned  Elinor to his office. He announced, "You're suspended....” but continued,  “from flying for ten days, retroactive to the day of your flight."   The Department of Commerce also sent her a letter demanding that she stop flying under bridges – but included a note asking for autograph!
     Elinor continued flying and setting speed, altitude, and duration records.  At age nineteen, she was voted the "best female pilot of the year" (besting Amelia Earhart) -- but her own dream of flying solo across the Atlantic was thwarted when the Depression forced her airplane sponsor to pull out. 
     When Elinor was eighty-nine years old, she was invited to fly NASA’s Challenger simulator at the Ames Research Center.  She remarked “It’s a spectacular ride. Everything about it is thrilling, but perhaps the most gratifying is that the entire support crew was made up of females. My instructor, the operator and the assistant were all women.”

For more information:
The Amazing Aviatrix Elinor Smith (article from the online magazine "Woman Pilot.")
Soar Elinor Soar! by Tami Lewis Brown (inspirational picture book biography, includes interview quotes with Elinor in the back matter.)
Aviatrix by Elinor Smith (her autobiography written in 1981)
Additional sources listed in her wikipedia article:

A bibliography of other pioneering female aviators can be found at:

Telling Herstories: Fascinating Women History Forgot by Carol Simon Levin
© Carol Simon Levin 2014

About Carol Simon Levin:
Carol Simon Levin is a librarian at the Somerset County Library and a member of the New Jersey Storyteller’s Network. She impersonates Elinor Smith and other forgotten women in presentations at libraries, senior centers, and other venues.   For more information, visit and

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving USA!

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!
Photo courtesy of Fremont United Methodist Church, Michigan
Come Ye Thankful People, Come

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;

all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.

God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;

come to God's own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

Words by Henry Alford, 1844
Music by George  J. Elvey, 1858

Thursday, November 21, 2013

President Kennedy--Remembering November 22, 1963

"Mom called," my best friend, Marla, told me. We didn't have school that day, so I was visiting her at her house, a huge farm. Her parents were at work. I loved going there with all the animals. She had a huge black horse, Gypsy, and a little pony. We usually rode the pony together and would laugh so hard we'd fall off.

I was eating a snack in the kitchen when Marla returned from the phone call. "Why's she checking up on us? To make sure the house isn't a wreck?" I giggled. We were teen-agers, but responsible girls. I knew her mom would never worry about us. The phone call was unusual.

I noticed Marla's eyes were full of worry. "She said to turn on the TV. The President's been shot."

At that moment my world was turned upside down. President Kennedy had been shot? How was that possible? He had a ton of Secret Service men guarding him. He was popular and had a beautiful family. Who would do such a thing?

We turned on the TV and listened in horror as the events unfolded in front of our eyes. We cried as we watched the horrible pictures showing his limousine race away to the Dallas hospital. Surely this was a scene from a movie. Not reality. Nothing could happen to our president. But, sadly we were wrong. Mr. Kennedy was pronounced dead about 1:30 that afternoon. Marla and I sat in front of the TV in shock.

The whole country was in shock. The events that followed his death were unimaginable. The man who shot him, Lee Harvey Oswald, was captured, then murdered in the police station by Jack Ruby, a saloon owner. 

To this day there are many questions about the events that occurred on November 22, 1963.  

I admired Mrs. Kennedy. Her strength and grace during this life-changing time helped all Americans and citizens of the world face this tragedy and deal with the grief. 

Mr. Kennedy in his short time in office made a difference in the world. He should not be remembered for how he died, but for his contribution to the office of the President of the United States of America and to the betterment of our country.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Update on Malala

Image from Glamour Magazine. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Malala Yousafzai  is the girl from Pakistan who stood up to fierce terrorists, the Taliban, who shot her in the head and neck to silence her. She fought back determined to live and carry her message of education for girls and rights for women to the world. She has rocked the world with her bravery and courage. Because of her bringing awareness to the plight of so many girls in the world who have no rights to education, Glamour magazine recognized her as one of their Women of the Year 2013.

Kudos to Glamour magazine for honoring her and  supporting education for girls worldwide.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remember to Say Thank You to a Veteran Today and Everyday

Veteran's Day today in the USA. God bless veterans! 

My husband served in the US Air Force. What is it about a uniform that makes you fall in love with a guy? 

On Veteran's Day we honor those who gave their lives in service to our country and say a huge thank you to veterans for their service. 

My thoughts and prayers are with those thousands of people devastated by the history making storm in the Philippines.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Photographer Jaime Moore's Not Just a Girl and Giveaway

Trailblazer: Pilot, Amelia Earhart 
Jaime Moore's daughter, Emma, turned five this year. For her birthday, this photographer mother always does a special photo shoot to capture memories and to celebrate this very important day in a child's life. This year, when she and her daughter were brainstorming ideas for the photo theme. Jaime noticed little girls this age dressed up as Disney princesses a lot. (Believe me, I have a four-year-old granddaughter who loves dressing up as a princess too.) 

Jaime appreciates the fantasy world these princesses live in, but she wanted Emma to know about the strong women in the real world, the great role models who could inspire her in real life.

They looked over all the fabulous women in history and chose five remarkable role models. (After all she was turning five!) They put together clothing and jewelry of the times and Emma posed just like these women did in their photographs. The resulting photos are stunning. The photos of  women's activist Susan B. Anthony, designer Coco Chanel, pilot Amelia Earhart, deaf/blind author and lecturer Helen Keller, and animal activist Jane Goodall came to life with Emma posing as these women and dressed in the clothing and jewelry of the day.

Jaime said, ".so let’s set aside the Barbie Dolls and the Disney Princesses for just a moment, and let’s show our girls the REAL women they can be."

Jaime entitled the photos, Not Just a Girl. You can check out her post and the photos on Jaime Moore's blog 

Who are the strong women you admire? Who would you choose to dress like and pose as that woman did in her photo?

Leave a comment below or email me at jqrose02 at gmail dot com and I will send you a free e-book, Girls Succeed: Stories Behind the Careers of Successful Women. This book introduces you to real, contemporary women and the paths they took to become successful in their dream careers. It is an inspiring and empowering book for girls.
Offer is good through November 11, 2013.

Download a sample at:
Smashwords Link