October is Women's History Month
Take a moment to read highlights from Canadian women's fascinating accomplishments in military and civilian aviation, as well as to find out how the CAHS's first female president was recently honoured!
CAHS President Named Chatelaine Magazine's Maverick of the Year
Rosella Bjornson, pictured at left and in the newsreel photo, was Canada's first female airline captain. The following is from Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame website:
Birthdate: July 13, 1947
Birth Place: Lethbridge, Alberta
Year Inducted: 1997
“As a girl, Rosella Bjornson dreamed of becoming an airline pilot. She achieved that dream in 1973 when she became the first woman in Canada to be hired by an airline, Transair, and the first female First Officer in North America. In 1990, she became the first female Captain with Canadian Airlines, the first time a woman had been promoted to that position with a major Canadian air carrier. With her involvement with school career days and various campaigns directed towards encouraging young people to get an education, Rosella continues to be a role model, especially for young women.”
Rosella is an active member of the CAHS as well as other organizations you might be interested in:
If you're a woman involved in aviation in Canada, I would also encourage you to get in touch with Nanci Soldo at the newly-formed Women's Aviation Network.
In 2011, the Brampton Flying Club (BFC) identified the need to make a special effort to attract more women into the aviation industry. Only 6% of the members at the BFC are women and in fact only 6% of pilots in North America are women! There are few reasons, that we can see, that should prevent women from becoming pilots, flight instructors, aircraft maintenance engineers (AMEs), aviation managers or business owners. The industry is predicting pilot shortages in future. There is opportunity for jobs and careers in aviation now.
The Elsie MacGill Northern Lights Award is given to a woman who has made a significant contribution to aviation and aerospace over an extended period of time and is a role model who inspires and motivates other women.
Roberta Taylor began her career as a commercial bush pilot in Northwestern Ontario. She has been an aircraft operations manager, air search and rescue pilot and fire patrol pilot in the Canadian Rockies, and served as ferry pilot and test pilot for the family aircraft business in Cranbrook, B.C. Roberta is actively engaged in a community project aimed at ensuring a safe operating environment for floatplanes, paddlers and rowers in the busy Post of Victoria. She continues to be a mentor for her peers and Students at the University of Victoria in B.C.
For more information on Roberta and the award, please click here.
This year's women's history month official theme is Women in Canadian Military Forces: A Proud Legacy. It is intended to honour women’s invaluable contributions to Canadian military forces throughout our history. Whether as enlisted members of the forces or as civilians providing support roles, women have worked on every front, answering the call.
The Status of Women website offers the following military aviation highlights:
- There was a woman behind a big warplane, the Hawker Hurricane! In the Second World War, Canadian engineer Elizabeth “Elsie” Gregory MacGill (1905-1980) oversaw the production of Hawker Hurricane fighter planes, used in the Battle of Britain. As a result, Elsie earned the nickname "Queen of the Hurricanes." To read her full bio, please click here.
- Major Wendy Clay paved the way on August 19, 1974, when she qualified for her pilot's wings – alas, before the pilot trade was open to all women. On February 13th, 1981, Canadian Air Force Captains Nora Bottomley, Dee Brasseur and Leah Mosher followed Major Clay's lead, graduating as the first Canadian women military pilots.
- In 1981, Second-Lieutenant Inge Plug became the first woman helicopter pilot in the Canadian Forces and Lieutenant Karen McCrimmon became the Canadian Forces' first woman air navigator.
- In 1987, the Air Force announced that all areas of Air Force employment, including fighter pilot, were open to women.
- Today, women can enroll in all occupations of the Canadian Forces, including combat arms, and they can serve in any environment.
They also suggest the following ways you can help celebrate women's history month:
- Get involved by taking a course or joining a club that celebrates some aspects of the history of women in the military.
- Learn more about the history of women in the military by reading a book, watching a documentary, movie, film or television program about a notable woman in Canadian military history.
- Tell others about the significance of women in the military by telling an interesting story, or by writing an article or a blog spot on the contributions and experiences of an outstanding woman.
- Interview local pioneering women who have made a significant difference in the military. You can build an oral history by recording your interview on audio or video.
- Participate in Women's History Month events and activities in your area and interact with your local community, work or school on the importance of women in the military.
- Support women's involvement and contributions in the military by honouring and commemorating a woman who has helped make history.
- Demonstrate your awareness of women's issues by engaging in conversations and letting others know what they can do to make a difference.
- Encourage young people to get involved in recognizing military women by developing a lesson, creating an exhibit, completing a project, staging in a play, or listening to a guest speaker talk about some of the outstanding contributions of women in Canadian military history.
- Discover your roots by investigating your family history and learning about the interesting military women in your family
- Visit a historical place associated with an interesting woman in the Canadian military.
- If you are in a book club, suggest that your group read a book by or about women in Canada's military.
Speaking of books, here are a few titles you might find interesting: