Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Women’s History Month -- WWII Fliers and a Timely YA Book

As a child, watching TV and going to Saturday matinees, I saw lots of old WWII movies. Some of them touched on the work of women in the airplane factories and various other war work. I had no idea, however, (as most people didn’t) that the WASPS – Women’s Airforce Service Pilots – didn’t receive the same recognition or awards as their male counterparts. They were considered civilians, though they had been sworn in the same as the male pilots, and if they were killed a collection had to be taken to pay for shipping them home. No flags draped their coffins. In 1944 when they were disbanded they paid their own way home with no honors and no benefits. They were not considered veterans. The approximately 300 survivors out of 1000 are now in their ‘80s and ‘90s. But finally this March 10, when most of the WASPS are long dead, Congressional Gold Medals (the highest congressional honor) were finally awarded to them: long overdue.
A few months ago I attended a very enjoyable talk by writer Sherri Smith at the Flintridge Book Store in LaCanada-Flintridge. Sherri had written a YA novel, Fly Girl, which is about a young black girl who passed for white in the 1940’s so she could join the WASPs. Sherri was inspired to write Fly Girl by a story about the women pilots on NPR. Her fascinating book, which rings true for the period, is about what it took to be a WASP. Even more, it’s about denying one’s true identity and all that means, and deciding who you really want to be. This is a perfect book to read for Women’s History Month, about what a strong and determined young woman can achieve.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating post - I didn't know any of this history. Wonderful that Sherri Smith wrote a YA book about this woman's story.