• CMTU History

Episode #15: Fly Girls




Welcome to Episode 15 of the Can't Make This Up History Podcast.

Today, we're talking about a group of bold, pioneering, and courageous women who took to the skies in the 1920s and 1930s to compete in air races during the golden age of aviation. These women the pushed boundaries of aerodynamics by shattering records for speed, distance, and altitude and refused to sit idle when society told them a woman's place was on the ground.


Today, bestselling author Keith O'Brien joins us to talk about his latest book, Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History. Keith is a former reporter for the Boston Globe,has written for the New York TimesMagazineand is a frequent contributor to NPR.


By shear happenstance, Keith and I recorded our interview in March during Women's History Month and I can't think of a more appropriate topic to feature on the program. In the podcast, Keith and I discuss how five notable female fliers fell in love with aviation in spite of its dangers, faced endless discrimination as they tried to compete with male pilots on an equal footing, and how they banded together to overcome not only what science and technology said was possible with their airships, as they were called, but what society said they could achieve as women.


Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Key Points in Today's Podcast

Some of the major topics I discuss with Keith in this episode are:

  • America's obsession with aviation in the 1920s

  • Who were Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, Ruth Elder, Florence Klingensmith, and Louise Thaden

  • How female aviators experiences sexism from the aviation world and the public

  • What air derbies and air speed racing was like

  • How women pilots organized to demand equality in the skies



For the Ever Curious

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, consider checking out these resources:

Books by Keith O'Brien

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