Further Reading for Adults & Teens:
Aviatrix by Elinor Smith. (HBJ, 1981) (Grade 9+) Fascinating autobiography of this daring and accomplished early pilot. The DVD Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby has an interview with Elinor Smith describing her flight under the four bridges.
Before Amelia: Women Pilots in the Early Days of Aviation by Eileen F. Lebow (Potomac Books, 2002.) (Grade 10+) Lively and well-researched chapters on the dozens of pre-1914 female flyers from many nations who were pioneers in the world of flight. Highly recommended for further reading.
The Happy Bottom Riding Club: The Life and Times of Pancho Barnes by Lauren Kessler (Random House, 2000) (Adult) “Flying makes me feel like a sex maniac in a whorehouse,” declares Florence “Pancho” Hollywood’s first female stunt pilot in this highly entertaining biography. (Also a DVD)
Heroes Without Legacy: American Airwomen, 1912-1944 by Dean Jacobs (University of Colorado, 1993) (Adult) A scholarly look at early airwomen and how their accomplishments and celebrity became obscurity after World War II.
Ladybirds (Blackhawk, 1991 & on Kindle) and Ladybirds II (Blackhawk, 1993) by Henry M. Holden (grade 8+) Lively and well-researched profiles of lesser-known aviatrices. See also his American Women of Flight: Pilots and Pioneers (Enslow, 2003.) (Grade 4+)
Powder Puff Derby of 1929: The True Story of the First Women’s Cross–Country Air Race by Gene Nora Jessen (Sourcebooks, 2002.) (Grade 8+) This book tells the story of the first major cross-country air race for women, the nine day, 2800 mi. “Powder Puff Derby”, as it was dubbed (affectionately) by Will Rogers. The contestants dealt with myriad equipment problems, illness, exhaustion and possible sabotage. (Well-researched but contains fictionalized dialogue.)
Women Aviators: From Amelia Earhart to Sally Ride, Making History in Air and Space by Bernard Marck. (Flammarian, 2013) (Grade 7+) Gorgeously-photo-illustrated, splendidly-written coffee table book contains wonderful stories and anecdotes about women pilots from all over the world.
Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys by Karen Bush Gibson (Chicago Review Press, 2013) (Grade 7+) Fascinating profiles of 26 aviators who pioneered early aerial achievements, served in wartime, and used their aviation skills to help relief efforts and charities. Each profile includes photographs and bibliography, many with web links.
Further Reading for Children on Early Pilots:
Alberto Santos-Dumont: The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont by Victoria Griffith (Abrams, 2011) (Grade K+) Though this picture book biography does not mention Aida de Acosta’s flight, it is a charming introduction to a quirky flyer who loved floating over Paris in his own personal flying machine and became the first man to lift off and land a completely self-propelled plane.
Sophie Blanchard: Lighter than Air by Matthew Clark Smith (Candlewick, 2017) (Grade K+) Beautiful and beautifully-told picture book biography of the first woman to pilot a balloon and her courage and determination to take to the skies.
Bessie Coleman: Nobody Owns the Sky: The Story of “Brave Bessie” Coleman by Reeve Lindbergh (Candlewick, 1998) 32 p. (Grade K+) Superbly-written narrative verse treatment begs to be read aloud! Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden & Mary Kay Droeger(Simon & Schuster, 2001) & others.
Blanche Stuart Scott: Tomboy of the Air: Daredevil Pilot Blanche Stuart Scott by Julie Cummings (Harper-Collins, 2001) (Grade 4+) Well-researched, informative, and very entertaining biography of the first U.S. woman to become a pilot.
Charles Lindbergh: Flight by Robert Burleigh (Philomel, 1991) (Grade K+) — conveys the excitement of Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight over the Atlantic.
Elinor Smith: Soar, Elinor! by Tami Lewis Brown (Farrar, Straus, 2010.) 40p. (Grade K+) Inspiring biography of the sixteen-year-old girl who flew under NYC’s bridges!
Harriet Quimby: The Daring Miss Quimby by Suzanne George Whitaker (Holiday House, 2009) (Grade K+) Lively pictures accompany an exciting text about this flamboyant flyer. First Lady of the Air by Sterling Brown (Grade 4+) Well-researched chapter book biography of Harriet Quimby but contains fictionalized dialog & thoughts. Brave Harriet: The First Woman to Fly the English Channel by Marissa Moss (Harcourt, 2001) (Grade 2+) — a fictionalized first person narrative.
Maggie Gee: Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss (Tricycle, 2009) (Grade K+) Taken from interviews with Maggie Gee herself, this is a wonderful picture book biography of one of the only Chinese-American women accepted into the World War II WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots).
Ruth Elder: Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America’s Heart by Julie Cummins (Roaring Brook, 2013) (Grade 1+) Lively picture book biography of Ruth Elder who planned to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Though that failed, in 1929, she and 19 other women (including Amelia Earhart) flew solo across the country to prove women could pilot as well as men! The Roaring Twenty: The First Cross-Country Air Race for Women by Margaret Whitman Blair (National Geographic, 2006) provides a beautifully photo-illustrated day to day account of this race. (Grade 5+)
Ruth Law: Ruth Law Thrills a Nation by Don Brown (Houghton Mifflin, 1995) (Grade K+) Brown’s riveting picture book depicting Ruth’s record-breaking flight. Check out the Reading Rainbow video (which also contains footage of Bessie Coleman). Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and her Flying Machine by Heather Lang (Calkins Creek, 2016) is equally well-done and includes Raul Colon’s marvelous illustrations.
Katherine Stinson: Katherine Stinson Otero, High Flyer by Neila Skinner Petrick (Pelican, 2006) (Grade K+) Lovely biography of this daring and adventurous individual. Katherine Stinson: The Flying Schoolgirl by Debra L. Winegarten (Eakin, 2002) (Grade 3+) Great photographs accompany this extensively-researched text.
Katharine Wright: The Wright Sister: Katharine Wright and her Famous Brothers by Richard Maurer (Roaring Brook Press, 2003.) Interesting and well-researched book on the role of “the third member of the team.”
Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy (National Geographic, 2011) (Grade 5+) Before airplanes, there were bicycles and this book provides a great background to the stories of female flyers listed here.
Women of the Wind: Early Women Aviators by Wanda Langley (Morgan Reynolds, 2006.) (Grade 5+) Includes time lines, photos, maps and period advertisements, quotes and an annotated list of relevant Web sites.
Women Who Fly by Lynn M. Homan and Thomas Reilly (Pelican, 2004) and Wings and Rockets by Jeannine Atkins (Farrar, 2003) both carry the story of female flyers from the early days through the astronaut programs.
Bibliography for “Flying Higher: A W.A.S.P. Takes Wing” (Grade levels are indicated for children’s titles, others are suitable for teens and adults)
Those Wonderful Women in their Flying Machines: The Unknown Heroines of World War II by Sally Van Wagenen Keil (Four Directions Press, 1979, rev. ed 1990) and On Silver Wings: The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II by Marianne Verges (Ballentine, 1991). Well-written , extensively-researched histories of the WASPs.
Yankee Doodle Gals: Women Pilots of World War II by Amy Nathan (National Geographic, 2001) (Grade 5+) Splendid introduction for children, teens, and adults to the role played by the WASP illustrated with dozens of contemporary images.
Amelia Earhart’s Daughters: The Wild and Glorious Story of American Women Aviators from World War II to the Dawn of the Space Age by Leslie Haynesworth and David Toomey (William Morrow, 1998) Well-written spell-binding account of the WASPs and the women aviators who followed them.
A WASP Among Eagles: A Woman Military Test Pilot in World War II by Ann Baumgartner Carl (Smithsonian Institute Press, 1999, reprinted in paperback 2010) Ann’s autobiographical account of her experiences in the WASP and her role in testing experimental military airplanes.
Letters Home: 1944-1945 by Bernice “Bee” Falk Haydu (Topline, 2003). The actual letters sent home by a WASP give a day-to-day look at the training and experiences. As president of the alumni organization, she spearheaded the drive to get military recognition of the WASPs in 1977. The nonagenarian Haydu still gives lively lectures on her experiences. Watch an interview with her here.
Wings, Women, and War: Soviet AirWomen in World War II Combat by Reina Pennington. (University of Kansas Press, 2002) Meticulously-researched, fascinating look at the Soviet women who flew 30,000+ combat missions in the war.
Seized by the Sun: The Life and Disappearance of WWII Pilot Gertrude Tomkins by James W. Ure (Chicago Review Press, 2017) (Grade 6+) Profiles a WASP who disappeared during the program.
Fly High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss (Tricycle Press, 2009 Grade K+) This splendid picture book biography tells the first person account of a Chinese-American girl whose dream to fly as a WASP came true.
Fly Girl by Sheri L. Smith (Speak Press, 2010, Grade 6+) This teen novel provides a fascinating look at the WASP program with an added twist — Ida, the 18 year old African-American protagonist, must pass for White in order to be admitted.
Wings: A Novel of World War II Flygirls by Karl Friedrich (McBooks, 2011) Dirt-poor Sally Ketchem leaves her farm family and finds excitement in the air, first through stunt-piloting and then as a WASP.
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion: A Novel by Fannie Flagg (Random House, 2013) Sookie Poole’s search for her birth mother leads her to the discovery of 4 sisters who flew as WASPs during WW2.
DVDs on Pioneering Female Pilots (and other WW2 female workers):
American Experience: Fly Girls (2006) This PBS documentary gives an excellent overview of the WASP program and the consequences of their lack of military status.
We Served Too (2013) Another WASP documentary which recently aired on PBS. WASP discuss their experiences during the three pivotal periods that make up the WASP history.
Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II (PBS, 2011) In another unconventional role for women like the WASPs, in 1942 a secret military program was launched to recruit female mathematicians who would become human computers for the US military.
Women in World War II: 12 Films Featuring America’s Secret Weapon Period films from the National Archives include Eleanor Roosevelt.
Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby Documentary about the twenty women who flew in the first female cross-country race and who eventually founded the Ninety-Nines association of female pilots. Also includes interview footage of Elinor Smith Sullivan talking about how she flew under the four NYC bridges.