The Founding of the Ninety-Nines (Organization of Female Pilots) at Curtiss Field

Authored by Gabriella Trinchetta

Aerial photograph of Curtiss Field, Valley Stream, New York

Aerial photograph of Curtiss Field in Valley Stream, New York, taken on July 30, 1935. Courtesy of the Valley Stream Historical Society Archives.

In the 1920s and 1930s, female pilots famously made strides in aviation through participating in air races, holding positions in the commercial sector, and completing lengthy solo flights, all while facing discrimination. Many people believed that a woman’s stereotypical delicate nature prevented her from successfully flying a plane because of weakness (Corn 1979, 560). Unfortunately, women pilots also faced difficulty in finding careers even after acquiring their licenses, so they often regrettably held positions in airplane sales. Famous professional female pilots, such as Amelia Earhart, Louise Thaden, Blanche Noyes, and Ruth Nichols worked in airplane sales before finally given the chance to prove their strength in flight (Corn 1979, 560). Even when airlines hired female pilots, they hesitated to allow them to fly in all conditions. For example, some airlines prohibited their female pilots from flying in less than perfect weather conditions (Corn 1979, 562-563).

Discrimination against female pilots led to the founding of an international women’s pilot organization, known as the Ninety-Nines. On November 2, 1929, female pilots gathered at Curtiss Field in Valley Stream, New York, photographed in the above artifact, to establish this organization dedicated to promoting “advancement of aviation through education, scholarships, and mutual support” (“Our History,” n.d.). The Ninety-Nines strives to showcase the strength and abilities of all female pilots, and ultimately contribute to ease in finding significant careers in aviation, such as jobs for major airlines, and in the military (May 1992). The underrepresented population of women in aviation find support through this organization while also hoping to inspire young girls to pursue prestigious careers in aviation in their futures. The Ninety-Nines continues to promote advancement in aviation careers for females in an effort to draw attention to role models for young girls who may view aviation as a male-dominated field. This organization, specifically on Long Island, New York, works to educate youth to emphasize female equality and endless career opportunities (Cerini 2004).

The Ninety-Nines also operates the Aviation Research Library, which houses archives and records related to women in aviation (Case 1986). The organization’s work in maintaining this library demonstrates their mission to emphasize women’s impact on the aviation field, and gain well-deserved respect for their contributions. While carrying out its own mission, the Ninety-Nines also aligns with the Vincentian mission of providing education, and combatting social injustice (St. John’s University, n.d.). The Ninety-Nines work to raise awareness of inequality in the aviation field, which showcases its objective to facilitate acceptance and respect for women pilots of the past and present.

References

“Cerini, Ken. ‘Ninety-Nines of LI Celebrating 29th Anniversary.’ Long Island Business News (Ronkonkoma, NY), July. 9, 2004. – Norton Safe Search.” n.d. Accessed March 26, 2018. https://nortonsafe.search.ask.com /web?geo=US&ver=22.12.1.15&prt=Default&chn=1000&guid=7C31CB3B-8946-49E0- BB6E-56E528291734&locale=en_US&o=APN11908&doi=2018-03-26&tpr=6& q=Cerini%2C+Ken.+%22NinetyNines+of+LI+Celebrating+29th+Anniversary.%22+Long+Island+Business+News+%28Ronkonkoma%2C+NY %29%2C+July.+9%2C+2004.&ots=1522067010043.

Corn, Joseph J. 1979. “Making Flying ‘Thinkable’: Women Pilots and the Selling of Aviation, 1927-1940.” American Quarterly 31 (4): 556. https://doi.org/10.2307/2712272.

“‘Groundbreaking Set for Expansion of Ninety-Nines Offices’ by Case, Patti – THE JOURNAL RECORD, October 31, 1986 | Online Research Library: Questia.” n.d. Accessed March 26, 2018. https://www.questia.com /newspaper/1P2-5373304/groundbreaking-set-for-expansion-of-ninety-nines-offices.

Inc, The Ninety-Nines. n.d. “Our History | Women in Aviation History | Amelia Earhart (The…” The Ninety-Nines, Inc. Accessed March 26, 2018. https://www.ninety-nines.org/amelia-earhart.htm.

May, Bill. “Ninety-Nines Reveals Strides by Women in Careers, Aviation.” Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK), Dec. 1, 1992. https://search-proquest-com.jerome.stjohns.edu/docview/259397832?OpenUrlRefId=info:xri/sid:wcdiscovery&accountid=14068.

“Our Mission | St. John’s University.” n.d. Accessed March 26, 2018. https://www.stjohns.edu/about/our-mission.

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