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International Women's Air and Space Museum in Cleveland

Updated on April 29, 2019
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of success in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, and aerospace education for Active USAF Civil Air Patrol.

Source

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.

Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport: Home of the  International Women's Air and Space Museum
Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport: Home of the International Women's Air and Space Museum | Source

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

A
Centerville, Ohio:
Centerville, OH, USA

get directions

Centerville is in the Ohio Space Corridor extending from the Cincinnati Area through Greater Dayton and since the 2010s, to Columbus and beyond.

B
National Museum of the Air Force and Hall of Fame :
1100 Spaatz St, Riverside, OH 45431, USA

get directions

Admission and parking are free. Phone:1-888-383-1903

C
Historic Air Force Plant 85/North American Rockwell Experimental Aircraft; Columbus, OH:
Plant Dr, Columbus, OH 43085, USA

get directions

Active since 1941, this is now the Columbus Air Center for warehousing, offices, and aircraft industries.

D
NASA John Glenn Center:
21000 Brookpark Rd, Cleveland, OH 44135, USA

get directions

E
Cleveland, Ohio:
Cleveland, OH, USA

get directions

Home of the women's aviation related museum at the city airport.

Museum Information

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 msharaba@iwasm.org

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.

First American Women Astronauts, hired in January 1978. rom the left are standing Shannon Lucid, Margaret Seddon, Kathryn Sullivan, Judith Resnik (1950 - 1986), Anna Fisher, and Sally Ride (1951 - 2012).
First American Women Astronauts, hired in January 1978. rom the left are standing Shannon Lucid, Margaret Seddon, Kathryn Sullivan, Judith Resnik (1950 - 1986), Anna Fisher, and Sally Ride (1951 - 2012). | Source

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

Who
What
When
Katherine Wright
Financial support to brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright.
circa 1903
Bessica Raiche
First American woman to fly solo. She was also a doctor, a dentist, and a linguist.
1910
Harriet Quimby
First American woman to be officially licensed as a pilot.
1911
Tiny Broadwick
First woman to parachute from a plane, she demonstrated parachutes to the US Army.
before 1915
Marjorie Stinson
First woman USPS airmail pilot.
1918
Bessie Coleman
First African American to earn a pilot's licence.
1921
Katherine Cheung
First Chinese American woman to earn a pilot's license. Joined The Ninety-Nines in 1933.
1931
Amelia Earhart
Famous transatlantic flight.
1932
Hanna Reitsch
First woman to fly a helicopter.
1938
Willa Brown
First African American Woman to earn pilot's and commercial licenses. First African American member of Civil Air Patrol.
1938, 1939, 1942
Jacqueline Cochran
First woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic. First woman to break the sound barrier.
1941, 1953
Jerrie Cobb
First woman to qualilfy and pass tests for astronaut training, but was not permitted to fly because she was a woman.
1959
Valentina Tereshkova
Fom U.S.S.R., the first woman to fly in outer space.
1963
Geraldine "Jerrie" Mock
From Columbus OH, the first woman to fly solo around the world.
1964
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.
1976, 1974
All Female Flight Crew
Captained by Caroline Frost, UK.
1977
Janice Brown
First long-distance solar-powered flight. Janice Brown
1980
Sally Ride
First American woman astronaut to fly.
1983
Bevery Burns
Former flight attendant, she became the first woman pilot to command a Boeing 747 across the USA.
1984
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.
1986
Eileen Collins
First female commander of a US Space Shuttle
1993
Jackie Parker
First woman to qualify as an F-16 combat pilot.
1994
Lt. Kendra Williams, USN
First American female combat pilot to bomb an enemy target (in Iraq).
1998
Valentina Tereshkova, She "went up" in 1963, but trained as an astronaut sometime after her mission.
Valentina Tereshkova, She "went up" in 1963, but trained as an astronaut sometime after her mission. | Source

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

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Amelia Earhart, first President of The Ninety-Nines. She is a long-lived legend in America.Pilot license photo of Pancho Barnes. Pancho Barnes Day is November 7. The USAF at Edward AFB hold an annual barbecue in her honor.Nancy-Bird WaltonRuth NicholsBettie Gilles,  first woman pilot to be "flight checked" and accepted by the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS).Fay Gillis WellsIla Fox Loetscher, also known as "Turtle Lady" for her conservation efforts.
Amelia Earhart, first President of The Ninety-Nines. She is a long-lived legend in America.
Amelia Earhart, first President of The Ninety-Nines. She is a long-lived legend in America. | Source
Pilot license photo of Pancho Barnes. Pancho Barnes Day is November 7. The USAF at Edward AFB hold an annual barbecue in her honor.
Pilot license photo of Pancho Barnes. Pancho Barnes Day is November 7. The USAF at Edward AFB hold an annual barbecue in her honor. | Source
Nancy-Bird Walton
Nancy-Bird Walton | Source
Ruth Nichols
Ruth Nichols | Source
Bettie Gilles,  first woman pilot to be "flight checked" and accepted by the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS).
Bettie Gilles, first woman pilot to be "flight checked" and accepted by the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). | Source
Fay Gillis Wells
Fay Gillis Wells | Source
Ila Fox Loetscher, also known as "Turtle Lady" for her conservation efforts.
Ila Fox Loetscher, also known as "Turtle Lady" for her conservation efforts. | Source

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.

Civil Air Patrol pilots and planes in 1942.
Civil Air Patrol pilots and planes in 1942. | Source

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.

Cold War Era NASA mathematician (calculator) Katherine Johnson received President Barack Obama's Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
Cold War Era NASA mathematician (calculator) Katherine Johnson received President Barack Obama's Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. | Source

Sources

  • 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

Comments

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      2 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      @lawrence01 - Thanks much for that information; US and UK are not the only nations with women who have made flight history!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Patty

      One who deserves a mention here, (though she's a Kiwi gal) is Jean Batten.

      Jean was the first woman to fly solo from London to Sydney (12,000 miles) in 1934

      In 1935 she did the same and return becoming the first person ever to do the return (24,000 miles)

      In 1937 she became the first to fly solo from London to Auckland (13,000 miles) and her plane is proudly on show literally hanging overhead in the international departures (The 'Jean Batten' lounge) lounge.

      Great hub here.

      Lawrence

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Patty, this is a great article. Women in space and space programs is not an everyday topic, but it offers so much inspiration and hope to our adventurous young women. There is at least one elementary school in Texas named after Sally Ride. I would love to visit the museum.

    • Happymommy2520 profile image

      Amy 

      2 years ago from East Coast

      This is a beautiful Hub in so many ways. I love the layout, it looks like it belongs on Time Magazine. You are very talented. I will never forget that day in the 80's when the Challenger exploded. Have a great holiday!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What a terrific look back at the importance of females and what they accomplished in early aviation history. You always put so much effort into the creation of your hubs making them so very interesting to read. Definitely sharing this!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      2 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Right Stuff! - I loved that movie. I just saw that John Glenn is in the hospital and hope it is nothing serious. He is 95 and has still been working.

      I should maybe do an Ohio Blog of some sort.

      Have a great evening - Fauntleroy and Flossy are up to more antics, I'll bet.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 

      2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      You find, and report on such interesting events. You should be on the payroll of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, since much of your centers around the activities centered in your area.

      Fascinating stuff. (The Right Stuff, was already taken.)

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