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

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nellie Zabel

It was 1894 when two-year-old Nellie Zabel came down with measles and became almost completely deaf. Some people might have used that excuse to live a very restricted life, but not Zabel. A high-spirited child, she became so fascinated by flying that when she grew up, she took a position as a typist and stenographer at an airfield. Then, when one of the flight instructors discovered Zabel's interest in taking flying lessons, it was a short hop, indeed, for her to fulfill her life-long dream.

As soon as she earned her pilot's license, her father bought her an open-cockpit Alexander Eagkerock OX-5 biplane which she promptly named "Pard" (after him) and she was soon an accomplished barnstormer and aerial acrobat. She was particularly good at balloon target racing which required pilots to carry out rapid-fire and super-tight maneuvers to pop balloons by flying into them. "Even though I could barely hear the engine roar," she once said, "I could tell right away if anything was wrong -- just from the vibrations."

Serving as a commercial airmail pilot until she was in her fifties, Zabel organized the South Dakota chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an organization of pioneering women pilots and wound up in the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame just before her death in 1991. In-your-face women don't let anything get in the way of their living the life they love, which means they never have to regret all the fun they didn't have.

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