Women's History Month

In Celebration of Women All Year Long

It’s March and we’re celebrating Women’s History Month but 2018 is turning out to be the year of the woman.

In January, the Women’s March on Washington liberated thousands of women to move from the sidelines to the front lines. From#MeToo to #Timesup, women are demanding respect and more access to power in the workplace. Brands like Johnnie Walker are introducing women-themed products.

The New York Times announced that it was launching a new feature in its obituary section called Overlooked, and “adding the stories of 15 remarkable women.” Going forward, there will be more diversity in its obituaries.

She Was a Pioneer

One of the 15 women featured in Overlooked is Violet Cowden who was one of an elite corps of women pilots who ferried planes during World War II from factories to airfields where they were urgently needed. I first wrote of her legendary story a couple of years ago.

Violet Cowden died at 94 in 2011 and left a lasting legacy of loyalty and patriotism.

According to her New York Times obituary, Vi and her fellow women pilots flew thousands of vital missions, freeing male pilots for combat missions. Attached to the Army Air Forces, these experienced and patriotic women were known as WASPS (Women Airforce Service Pilots).

It was shocking to learn that “Because they were civil service employees and not military personnel, the WASPs had to pay for their own food, lodging and often capacious attire. There were no flight suits for women then, and Mrs. Cowden, barely more than 5 feet tall, was installed in a men’s Size 44 for the duration.”

Vi worked seven days a week and “flew in all weather, came down on runways without lights, and sometimes took the controls of planes so fresh from the factory that they had never been tested.”

As the war wound down, male pilots began returning to the U.S., and Vi, along with the brave women she served with, were summarily dumped as men took their places.

Although 38 women lost their lives and many more were injured, they were not recognized for their service until many years later when President Carter signed a bill granting the WASPs recognition as veterans which allowed them to received limited benefits.

Finally, in March of 2010, The United States awarded the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest award that a civilian can receive from Congress – to nearly 300 women, including WASPs, all over the age of 86.

Here is Vi at 92 in a documentary, “Wings of Silver: The Vi Cowden Story,” describing her war-time experience. It begins with footage of the stereotypical image of “girls” during that era. Then Vi shows us what women were really capable of.

Women have flown in space shuttles and now sit in the captain’s seat on commercial airline flights. But the statistics for women pilots are still pretty dismal, as only about 6.71%, or 39,187, women are pilots among the total number of 584,362 pilots.

So, women still have a long way to go. But Women’s History Month is an acknowledgement of how much women have contributed to making this planet a better place to live. Onward!


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  1. I remember seeing Violet’s story on Facebook on one of the WWII groups I follow. Remarkable.
    Thirty some years ago, I read about Jackie Cochran–the first woman to break the sound barrier. After her, I discovered Anne Morrow Lindbergh and the many exploratory and dangerous flights she undertook with her more famous husband. Shame she wasn’t recognized for her contributions at the time.

    We have so much catching up to do, I’d like to see us getting out of the passengers seat and doing a lot more driving.

    • RoseMary — I agree. Let’s start with grabbing the TV remote and WE’LL change the channels and not our significant other! Seriously, there have been so many accomplished women over the years who achieved greatness that wasn’t recognized. I’m glad the NY Times is finally getting around to acknowledging that in choosing the people to highlight in their obituaries.

  2. Hi Jeannette. this year is indeed the Year of the Woman, and we are so fortunate in Canada to have a Prime Minister (male) who is a declared feminist. We’ve seen many recent honours being devoted to women in the past year. Most recently, the image of Viola Davis on the new Canadian $10 bill. Yahoo!

    • Doreen — not only is your Prime Minister a feminist but he’s darn good looking! Great that Viola Davis is on the new Canadian $10 bill. We just have to keep plugging along and demanding that women be recognized for their achievements and also paid accordingly.

      • Hi Jeannette: I just realized that I’d written the wrong surname for Viola. It was Viola Desmond that I was thinking of. She was a black woman who challenged racial segregation in a Nova Scotia cinema in 1946 to illustrate and protest racial discrimination in Canada. She was charged and pardoned for the charge and help pave the path for change through her actions. A true inspiration who helped make Canada the great and equitable country it is today.

  3. Thank you for sharing on Violet Cowden. She certainly was a pioneer of her time along with other women who remain unknown to society.

    Women have come a long way due to the few who stood up and contested on our behalf.

    • Phoenicia — these women pilots were essential to the war effort. It’s unfathomable that the had to pay for their own uniforms, hotels and meals while often flying missions in planes that had not even been tested. Also thousands of women became code breakers during WW II and, according to CNN, “..and became the backbone of America’s intelligence infrastructure. Their efforts saved lives and shortened the war. Code breaking was pivotal to the Allied defeat of Japan at sea and on the Pacific Islands, as well as to neutralizing the threat posed in the Atlantic by Nazi submarines.”

  4. You know Jeannette I’m not sure we will live to see the day men and women are truly equal. By law we have been equal in Sweden since before I was born. But women still earn less, some companies prefer to have men at top positions and so forth. Honestly have a feeling that even, at least quite a large section of, Scandinavian men don’t want to give more power to women. And the same applies to the rest of the world.

  5. I’m glad we are learning to recognize the efforts of women, but I’m also amazed that in 2018 we still struggle to recognize half the population. Thanks for sharing Violet Cowden with us.

    • Debra — agree that it’s still a long slog until we reach some form of parity with men — at home and in the workplace.