International Women's Air and Space Museum in Cleveland
From Centerville to Cleveland
The International Women's Air and Space Museum in Cleveland began in the same manner as did the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, as a small collection of memorabilia in one corner of a downtown office, soon to outgrow its space.
While the USAF museum grew into a huge complex, the women's museum grew more slowly and moved from Centerville near the USAF museum in 1998 to the Downtown Cleveland BLK Airport terminal.
At BLK, travelers booking flights on smaller airlines than available at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport southwest of town are surprised by a museum constructed in displays all through the terminal and free of charge, as is parking in front of the building. Staff and dozens of interns build large individual glass display cases that hold the documents, uniforms, and pieces of equipment that famous women flyers from the 1920s to the present have used.
During the Spring of 1963, I was privileged as a child to visit the new U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton-Fairborn before its official grand opening. It was housed in a single hangar, but included materials about Amelia Earhart.
The International Women's Air and Space Museum is displayed throughout the terminal at BKL in Downtown Cleveland, not far from the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and NASA's John Glenn Center.
Map of Some Ohio Aviation Historic Sites
Centerville is in the Ohio Space Corridor extending from the Cincinnati Area through Greater Dayton and since the 2010s, to Columbus and beyond.
Admission and parking are free. Phone:1-888-383-1903
Active since 1941, this is now the Columbus Air Center for warehousing, offices, and aircraft industries.
Home of the women's aviation related museum at the city airport.
Burke Lakefront Airport
1501 N. Marginal Rd.
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
Hours of Operation:
Everyday from 8am - 8pm, with a gift shop and research center open 10am - 4pm. Guided tours available.
A wonderful blog for the museum is located at http://iwasm.org/wp-blog
Importance of Women in the History of Flight
The women's museum staff openly and constantly solicits biographies and memorabilia from female flyers to add to the interesting displays. AS a visit to the museum shows, Amelia Earhart was not the only important female flyer in American aviation history. It has been exciting to see displays involving other women in the Cleveland and Dayton-Fairborn museums.
If you have anything that could be added, you might contact them at:
- Collections Manager, Mike Sharaba, at email@example.com
On December 7, 2016 the museum's Twitter account was full of postings about women involved in the Pearl Harbor Attack of 1941. These include:
- "Cornelia Fort (important in flight history) - Saw the enemy from the skies on Dec. 7, 1941 and nearly lost her life."
Women and men in the Civil Air Patrol stopped German U-Boats from bombing oil freighters off America's Atlantic Coast and around the Gulf of Mexico.
Women's Recognition in Aviation
The women's museum has grown more slowly than that of the national USAF facility in part, because only about 60 women have become astronauts for America, while over 300 men have done so, even many of both genders have been connected with the military services.
In the 1920s, women whose families could afford the luxury could learn to fly and earn a pilot's license. Many of these earned their own planes and some were licensed as ages as young as 16. They and other went on to help form the Civil Air Patrol in 1941 and protect Americas East Coast and Gulf of Mexico shorelines from German invasion.
As women began to ferry large aircraft during WWII, related materials began to accumulate that would one day be placed into museums.
Today, the Civil Air Patrol and Buzz Aldrin's ShareSpace have recruited young women as well as young men into middle school and high school STEAM classes, with an eye toward working in the aviation/aerospace industries.
It is a lesser known fact that Orville and Wilbur Wright's sister Katherine helped them with the design and promotion of their successful first-flight aircraft.
Female Flyers and Daredevils
Women have made some unique flight accomplishments since the Wright Brothers first went aloft in 1903, but were largely unrecognized. However, daredevil air shows featured women pilots performing incredible stunt flying and they became entertainment that rivaled the famous circuses of the day.
When Hillary Clinton was a teenager, NASA informed her that women did not become astronauts. In fact, teen girls and women were not yet permitted to work in McDonald's restaurants, either.
Further, a major Midwest insurance company at the time used a reference manual until that instructed supervisors about how to deal with women employees because females have a "reduced mental capacity", along with "mental and physical problems", because they are female. Altogether, the world was not ready to accept female pilots and astronauts for decades after the Wrights flew.
Women are just not smart enough to do this job (pilot).— First officer of an airliner where future pilot Beverly Burns was a flight attendant
Beat into space by Soviet female cosmonauts flying since 1963, NASA finally trained women astronauts in 1979, with Sally Ride finally flying in 1983, 20 years after the first Soviet woman flew in low-Earth orbit. Today, the women's museum at BLK has an entire wall of photos of American women astronauts.
Many women with flight and aerospace achievements are featured not only in Cleveland, but also in displays at the National Museum of the Air Force and the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum.
NASA astronaut Sunita Williams is the commander of the first operational flight of Boeing’s new CST-100 Starliner to the Lunar Gateway Space Station in the early 2020s.
Some Unique Female Feats in Air and Space
Financial support to brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright.
First American woman to fly solo. She was also a doctor, a dentist, and a linguist.
First American woman to be officially licensed as a pilot.
First woman to parachute from a plane, she demonstrated parachutes to the US Army.
First woman USPS airmail pilot.
First African American to earn a pilot's licence.
First Chinese American woman to earn a pilot's license. Joined The Ninety-Nines in 1933.
Famous transatlantic flight.
First woman to fly a helicopter.
First African American Woman to earn pilot's and commercial licenses. First African American member of Civil Air Patrol.
1938, 1939, 1942
First woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic. First woman to break the sound barrier.
First woman to qualilfy and pass tests for astronaut training, but was not permitted to fly because she was a woman.
Fom U.S.S.R., the first woman to fly in outer space.
Geraldine "Jerrie" Mock
From Columbus OH, the first woman to fly solo around the world.
Emily Howell Warner
First woman commerical airline pilot hired, finally allowed to fly the plane after three years. First female member of the Air Line Pilots Association.
All Female Flight Crew
Captained by Caroline Frost, UK.
First long-distance solar-powered flight. Janice Brown
First American woman astronaut to fly.
Former flight attendant, she became the first woman pilot to command a Boeing 747 across the USA.
Nancy Hopkins Tier
First President of the International Women's Air and Space Museum. She was the first woman to reach the rank of Colonel and Wing Commander of a Civil Air Patrol unit in 1942.
First female commander of a US Space Shuttle
First woman to qualify as an F-16 combat pilot.
Lt. Kendra Williams, USN
First American female combat pilot to bomb an enemy target (in Iraq).
The Ninety Nines
In 1929, the year of the US Stock Market Crash and the beginning of The Great Depression, 99 women met for the first gathering of a professional women pilot's organization.They called them selves "The Ninety-Nines."
By 2016, that same group had accumulated well over 5,200 members. Many of the original group are celebrated at the International Women's Air and Space Museum on Lake Erie about two blocks from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Founders of the Ninety-Nines
Founders not pictured above include several women: Phyllis Fleet, Candis Hall, Louise Thaden, Phoebe Omlie, Mary Goodrich Jenson, Opal Kunz, and Mildred Stinaff.
Civil Air Patrol: Men, Women, Black and White
Civil Air Patrol predates the formation of the USAF. It is now part of the US Air Force Total Force, joining the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. It became an Air Force auxiliary in May, 1948 but was founded just before Pearl Harbor Day, on December 1, 1941.
Aerospace Ground Work
The first women associated with NASA comprised the group of African American mathematicians called "calculators." They were responsible for finding the mathematics responsible for launching our astronauts into space, into low-Earth orbit, and eventually to the moon.
The calculators' story is logged accurately in the 2016 film Hidden Numbers and is celebrated at all of the Ohio aviation and space related museums.
- Presentation of NASA's John Glenn Center in Cleveland at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, Ohio; 2018.
- Tour of the International Women's Museum of Air and Space; 2018.
- Tours of the Greater Dayton Area Heritage Aviation Park; 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.
- Tours of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright Patterson AFB; 1963, 1976, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 Patty Inglish MS