because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ruth Nichols

Ruth Nichols was born in New York City in 1901 with a silver spoon in her mouth. She was sent to the prestigious Masters School and then to Wellesley College where she majored in pre-med. So it never occurred to her stock broker father and socialite mother that Nichols had been secretly taking flying lessons while still in college. And we can only guess what they thought when she announced that she had been granted her pilot's license shortly after graduation in the mid-1920's.

In 1930, Nichols beat Charles Lindbergh's record time for a cross country flight. In 1931, she set the world altitude record for diesel powered aircraft. By 1932, she was officially a commercial pilot. And she kept up the record setting until she was fifty-seven years old.

When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration started playing with the idea of putting women into space in the late 1950's, Nichols was one of the first in line to be tested experimentally to determine the viability. When scientific and political backlash against the idea deep-sixed the whole thing right in mid-stream, she went into a crashing depression and ultimately took an overdose of sleeping pills. Sometimes an in-your-face woman gets tired of having doors shut in her face. After all, as Nichols once said, "It takes special kinds of pilots to break frontiers and in spite of the loss of everything, you can't clip the wings of their hearts."

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