Women’s Air Race Across America

Today I have a book that chronicles the women’s air race across America.  Never heard of it you say?  Well it happened in 1929, and if you think Amelia Earhart was a trailblazer for women in aviation, just wait until you meet Marvel Crosson, Louise Thaden, and Pancho Barnes.  Amelia Earhart may get the glory today, but as plane travel was just in its infancy, she was actually one of the less accomplished female pilots.

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Don’t forget to check out the video at the end of the post to see some of these women in action.

Title: Born to Flywomen's air race across America Born to fly

Author: Steve Sheinkin

Target: Grades 5-12

What this book is about:

How often do you get to read about an amazing incident in history where you don’t know the outcome?  This book details the lives and accomplishments of some of the earliest female pilots and takes us on the groundbreaking race these women participated in across America. Unfortunately, it wasn’t death-defying.  Readers will learn about the lives of these accomplished women, their sacrifices and the ridiculous male chauvinism they had to endure to prove that women can not only perform as well as men but often better than.  Readers will also learn about early aviation.  I was amazed that these women navigated the race by holding a map in their lap and leaning out the plane to identify landmarks.  I felt for the poor flyers whose maps were blown away by a strong gust of wind!

Why I love this book:

  • I was definitely in the camp of Amelia Earhart being the one significant female aviator of the time.  Seems silly now that I read this book, but there were so many other women who were groundbreaking, pushing limits and changing the perception of what women can accomplish.  This race occurred only nine years after women got the right to vote. Think about that for trailblazers.  Oh, and get this, the first woman featured on a box of Wheaties – a female pilot, Elinor Smith in 1934.
  • How is it that I never heard of this race?  It was quite the event of the time, and yet so few of us know about what these women were able to accomplish.  I loved getting a window into history and so want to give these ladies the credit they are due.
  • I really appreciated the photographs throughout the book.  They helped bring these women to life for me.  There was an interesting choice to also include illustrations but they didn’t carry the same impact.  I would have been happy if even more photos were included.

Who this book is for:

I have included a broad age range because it really does cross over from middle to high school.  It is chock full of information but written as a narrative, which makes the facts so easy to digest.  Any student who wants to learn more about female empowerment, or simply get caught up in an exciting competition, will appreciate this story.  If your kids liked Sheinkin’s other books such as Undefeated or Dangerous, this one will be a good fit.  Sheinkin is truly a master at creating compelling stories with real-life events.

Final thoughts:

The one area of the book that gave me trouble was keeping track of the women who were profiled.  I don’t know if it was the organization or quantity of women profiled, but I started to get confused as to who was who.  Due to time constraints, I couldn’t read the book in one sitting, so as I went back to it, I almost needed a refresher on who did what.  That may deter some kids.

To purchase this book:

Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Born to Fly: The First Women’s Air Race Across America.  A portion of each purchase will go to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.