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Cleveland's International Women's Air and Space Museum

Updated on December 7, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish offers 25+ years successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

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.

The International Women's Air & Space Museum is displayed throughout the terminal at BKL in Downtown Cleveland.

Home of the International Women's Air and Space Museum

Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport
Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport | Source

Museum Information

Burke Lakefront Airport

1501 N. Marginal Rd.

Cleveland, Ohio 44114

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Hours of Operation:

Everyday from 8am - 8pm, with a gift shop and research center open 10am - 4pm. Guided tours available.

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A wonderful blog for the museum is located at http://iwasm.org/wp-blog

International Women's Air and Space Museum

A markerBurke Lakefront Airport, Rm 165 1501 N. Marginal Rd. Cleveland, Ohio 44114 -
Burke Lakefront Airport, 1501 N Marginal Rd, Cleveland, OH 44114, USA
get directions

What to Learn at the International Women's Air and Space Museum

The Importance of Women in the History of Flight

The women's museum staff openly solicit biographies and memorabilia from women flyers to add to the interesting displays. 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 (an important woman in flight history) - Saw the enemy from the skies on Dec. 7, 1941 and nearly lost her life."

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.

Women and men in the Civil Air Patrol stopped German U-Boats from bombing oil freighters off America's Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.

First American Women Astronauts: Hired in January 1978

Source

From the left are standing Shannon Lucid, Margaret Seddon, Kathryn Sullivan, Judith Resnik (1950 - 1986), Anna Fisher, and Sally Ride (1951 - 2012).

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. A major insurance company used a reference manual until the 1980s that instructed supervisors about how to deal with women employees because females have 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.

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.

Some Unique Female Accomplishments 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
Geraldine Mock
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

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

First Woman in Space: 1963

Valentina Tereshkova
Valentina Tereshkova | 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.Pilot license photo of Pancho Barnes.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.
Amelia Earhart, first President of The Ninety-Nines. | Source
Pilot license photo of Pancho Barnes.
Pilot license photo of Pancho Barnes. | 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: 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.

Cold War Era NASA mathematician (calculator) Katherine Johnson received President Barack Obama's Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1915.
Cold War Era NASA mathematician (calculator) Katherine Johnson received President Barack Obama's Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1915. | Source

National Aviation Hall of Fame

A marker1100 Spaatz Street Dayton, Ohio 45433 -
1100 Spaatz St, Riverside, OH 45431, USA
get directions

Address: 1100 Spaatz Street; Dayton, Ohio 45433. Located inside the National Museum of the Air Force. Admission and parking are free. Phone:1-888-383-1903

© 2016 Patty Inglish

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 7 months ago from North America

      @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 7 months 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 Isaac Weithers 8 months 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 8 months 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 8 months 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 image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 8 months ago from North America

      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 8 months 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.)