The best books for kids, teens, and adults about women who dared to fly!
From the earliest days of aviation, women have played a role — but few people know the stories of the daring women who opened the throttles, pulled back on the stick, and soared into history! Even when a name like Amelia Earhart or Bessie Coleman comes to mind, many kids don't know exactly how they made history, and few of them have heard of other groundbreaking women like Sophie Blanchard or Jerrie Mock. So it's time to celebrate these women who founds ways to take flight, even when the world told them they were reaching too high.
In this blog post, we've featured our favorite books for all ages about trailblazing female pilots throughout history. Whether they were on the cutting edge of the development of flight, breaking records and testing the limits of what newer and better airplanes could do, or thrilling crowds with their daredevil maneuvers, these airwomen were bold and daring. And, for the Mighty Girls that read them, these books might just be the inspiration for their dreams of a life in the clouds!
Books About Trailblazing Female Pilots
Young Amelia Earhart dreamed of flying like a bird, so as an adult, she decided to learn how to fly a plane! Female pilots were few and far between, but Amelia wanted to prove that women could fly just as well as men. First, she set a female world record by flying at 14,000 feet; then, she flew across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; and finally, she decided to try flying all around the whole world. This board book from the Little People, BIG DREAMS series, which also includes a board book about Maya Angelou, will inspire and empower the littlest readers.
Unlike most girls in the 1930s, Betty Skelton wanted to play with airplanes... and cars and motorcycles and all sorts of things! She dreamed of a life full of adventure, one where she was constantly taking on new challenges and always reaching new heights. In fact, Skelton would go on to ride motorcycles, race cars, skydive, and fly not just planes, but also helicopters, gliders, and blimps, doing so many things for the first time that the press nicknamed her the "First Lady of Firsts." This exuberant picture book biography celebrates a daredevil adventurer who knew that there's nothing as exciting as trying something for the first time.
Amelia Earhart refused to take no for an answer — whether it was about building a roller-coaster on the tool shed as a child, or about learning to fly a plane as an adult! She wanted to go farther than anyone ever had, and do things that no one had ever done. And as a pilot, she did so over and over, breaking record after record for female pilots! This book from author Brad Meltzer's bestselling Ordinary People Change the World series shows kids how Earhart's childhood daring led to a groundbreaking career in aviation... and inspires them to consider how they themselves might change the world.
In 1912, airplanes were rickety, unreliable things, and flying further than a few miles over water was considered ridiculously dangerous. And yet, Harriet Quimby knew she wanted to become the first woman to fly solo across the English Channel. Even over such a seemingly short distance, the risks were high: if she veered off course even five miles, she would fly out over the ocean and run out of fuel far from shore. Her flight was a success, but another news story — the sinking of the Titanic — overshadowed her accomplishment... at least for others. For Quimby herself, it was a dream come true. This celebration of a little-known moment in aviation history will make kids consider how famous Harriet Quimby should have been.
Ruth Elder was fascinated by airplanes — but in 1927, piloting was a thrilling and dangerous novelty, and definitely not a hobby for women, who belonged in a kitchen, not a cockpit. Elder refused to be dissuaded, though, and set herself a challenge: she would fly across the Atlantic Ocean and prove that women belonged in the sky. Her Atlantic flight ended in a crash landing thanks to a leaking gas line, but her determination captured America's imagination... and not long after, she joined Amelia Earhart and 18 other women in a flight across the country, proving that women could handle the captain's seat! This charming story celebrates the spunk and courage of a woman who was willing to risk it all to fly.
Growing up, both Geraldine (Jerrie) Mock and Joan Merriam decided they wanted to be pilots, and both of them were inspired by trailblazing pilot Amelia Earhart. In the 1960s, both women decided, independently, that they wanted to follow Earhart's planned route and circle the world — and they even planned their starts for the same day. When the news broke, there was only one option to the media and public transfixed by their story: turn their flights into a race. Mock would end up winning, but both women would end up fulfilling the dream of a lifetime! This picture book about the 1964 race between Mock and Merriam will introduce young readers to two little known but important figures in aviation history.
Ruth Law set off on the first non-stop Chicago to New York City flight on November 19, 1916... a flight the experts thought was doomed. Exposed to the wind and cold in the seat of her little biplane — and then facing another challenge when her engine ran out of fuel — Law managed to glide safely into Hornell, New York, short of her goal but still setting a new record for cross-country flight distance. And despite the stop, she was greeted by thrilled crowds after refueling and finishing her trip to New York City. This exciting and action-packed story will leave young aviation enthusiasts fascinated, and is sure to inspire any girl who wonders what to do if she doesn't quite go the distance she'd planned.
Beverley Bass dreamed of being a pilot, but when she was a girl in the late 1950s, her parents told her girls just didn't do that. Still, they supported her by taking her to an airport to watch the planes. As a teenager, she got her pilot's license, and she fought through decades of prejudice before getting her big break with American Airlines, first as a flight engineer, then as a co-pilot, and finally as their first female captain. She was even one of the pilots forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland on September 11, 2001 — which brought her story to the world through the hit musical Come From Away! This vivacious biography, told by Bass herself, is a soaring tale of refusing to give up on your dreams.
In April, 1933, Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt found themselves together at a White House dinner party... one which wasn't exactly thrilling. So the two headstrong friends decided to head out for a little excursion: they crept away (still in their evening gowns), commandeered an Eastern Air Transport plane, and set off on a nighttime flight from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore! This lavish picture book, illustrated in the style of a vintage movie, celebrates the joy of adventure and the special relationship between these two historic women.
Bessie Coleman knew she wanted to "find a bigger life" — one where her future didn't involve picking cotton and struggling to get by. When she grew up, she moved to Chicago and heard tales of the first World War from veterans... including stories of women pilots in France. So when no one in America would teach her how to fly, she saved every penny she could and traveled there, where she became the first African American to earn a pilot's license. Coleman would return to America and become a famous stunt pilot, and everywhere she went, she would remind kids, "You can fly high just like me." This evocative picture book biography captures the determination and drive of this aviation pioneer. For another book about Coleman, check out Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Bessie Coleman for ages 7 to 10.
In 1700s France, "balloonomania" was everywhere! Everyone was fascinated by the great hot air balloons that could achieve previously unheard heights... but all of the first aeronauts were men. Sophie Blanchard was a shy girl from a seaside village, but she became captivated by the dream of flight. Blanchard went on to become the first woman to pilot her own aircraft and became such a leader in the field that she was even named Chief Air Minister of Ballooning by Napoleon himself! Author Matthew Clark Smith celebrates Blanchard's courage and determination to follow her heart, up into the air in a beautiful balloon.
In the early part of the 20th century, three fictional young women — Hazel in America, Marlene in the UK, and Lilya in Russia — dream of being able to fly but in order to win their place in the cockpit, they would have to fight sexism on the ground more fiercely than enemies in the sky! As the world slowly moves towards another great war, they go to pilot school (in some cases in secret) and prove their mettle, eventually flying for their countries during World War II. Author/illustrator Sally Deng crafts a powerful story about the experiences of trailblazing pilots around the world in this gorgeously illustrated book that celebrates the joy of flight and following your dreams.
Middle grade readers get a thrilling and in-depth introduction to the pioneering flyer Amelia Earhart in this detailed biography! In alternating chapters, author Candace Fleming both describes Earhart's life and the search for her and her plane after her fateful disappearance. The book includes detailed photos and maps, as well as reproductions of handwritten notes from Earhart herself, and also provides sidebars on everything from the history of human flight to Earhart's quirks — like her tendency to eat tomato soup while in the cockpit. It's a unique and absorbing telling of Earhart's life and the ongoing mystery of her disappearance.
Jerrie Mock's love of aviation began in childhood, and she even attended aeronautical engineering in university, but she then settled into domestic life as a woman of her time was expected to do. However, when her husband jokingly suggested a round-the-world flight, her interest was rekindled, and she started planning a trip that could make her the first woman to fly solo around the world. What began as a lark turned into a race that thrilled people around the world — but then her story was overshadowed by the Vietnam War and largely forgotten. This thrilling telling of Mock's record-setting flight will fascinate young aviation fans. Younger readers will enjoy Aim For The Skies: Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith's Race to Complete Amelia Earhart's Quest for ages 5 to 9.
In the midst of World War II, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) became the first women to fly U.S. military aircraft... but for years, their contributions to the war effort were under recognized. These women pilots performed essential tasks, from test-flying repaired aircraft to dragging banners behind their planes so that male pilots could do target practice with live ammunition. In some cases, they took tasks on because the male pilots refused! This book draws on firsthand accounts from multiple women of the WASPs and follows their history from formation to the moment in 2010 when they received the Congressional Gold Medal for their dedication and service.
When the US Army Airforce faced a shortage of pilots in the middle of World War II, they called upon a determined group of women to help. The 1,100 women of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) were trained like military pilots, marching in review and wearing uniforms. They took on grunt work like testing repaired planes and ferrying planes from factories to bases, and even towing targets for live ammunition training. A number died in the line of duty, but because they were "only" civilians, they received no military benefits, not even for burials. In this inspiring book, author Patricia Pearson creates a lively account of the daring women whose love of flying and desire to serve their country drove them to soar and challenge the sexist attitudes of their time.
Gertrude “Tommy” Tompkins joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) to overcome her grief over the death of the love of her life; learning to fly freed her from that and from the stutter that had plagued her throughout her life. But after lifting off for a mission on October 26, 1944, the 32-year-old pilot disappeared; she remains the only WASP still missing and what happened to her remains a mystery. In this fascinating book from the Women of Action series, author James Ure draws on years of research to create a complex portrait of this daring woman and her tragic end.
Did you know that Katherine Wright, the Wright Brothers' sister, was involved in the invention of the airplane? It just goes to show that women have been involved since the first days of aviation! In this book from the Women of Action series, teens will learn about her and 25 other aviation pioneers who defied the idea that only men had the physical and mental capacity to fly. Along the way, they set new records and inspired people around the world! Author Karen Bush Gibson draws on primary sources to tell the stories of these women with verve and flair.
In the 1930s, everyone loved air racing, and male pilots were considered daring and courageous heroes — but female pilots were the subject of ridicule; why would people more suited to a home and kitchen even try to take the controls of such a dangerous machine? In this book, Keith O'Brien tells the stories of five women who dared to challenge the entrenched prejudice and prove that women had what it took to fly. Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, and Louise Thaden came from drastically different backgrounds, but they all had a dream of flight... and one of them would prove that a woman could do more than just fly: she could win the toughest race of them all.