"Let Women Fly" -- Ruth Bancroft Law, Aviation Pioneer

Ruth Law in the earliest days of flying. (Photo: Pinterest)

Ruth Law in the earliest days of flying. (Photo: Pinterest)

Ruth Law was an adventurous young girl who enjoyed playing outside with boys rather than doing traditional "girl" activities. At a very young age she found her interest in flying and in 1911, women were not yet welcomed into the aviation field. She wanted lessons and though Orville Wright believed women were unfit to fly, and refused her lessons, he did sell her a plane.  In June 1912 she began lessons and the following month made her first flight. She received her pilot's license and began ferrying passengers, becoming the first woman to pilot an aircraft at night. Also, she enjoyed aerobatic maneuvers and perfected them, especially the "loop the loop," and demonstrated them before mesmerized crowds.

In 1916, Law attempted to do something that no one had done before: fly from Chicago to New York City in one day. It was a dangerous journey that would require nerve and great endurance, and although her original goal had to be altered, she still made history because Law was no ordinary woman or pilot. She was a pioneer.

Ruth Law. (Photo: www.ctie.monash.edu.au

Ruth Law. (Photo: www.ctie.monash.edu.au

Fiercely competitive, she broke the altitude record for women by flying 11,200 feet. It was on November 19, 1916, however, that she achieved her greatest feat. She set a new cross-country distance record by flying from Chicago to Hornell, NY. She became the holder of the American record for a distance flight.

Hailed as both a bold and skillful aviator, Law became a national hero. Her achievement transcended a mere aviation record; she inspired a nation. Her flight ignited a fire of enthusiasm for flying and sparked the imagination of people across the country. Young girls now had a new role model.

During World War I, she wore a regulation army aviation uniform and was billed as "Uncle Sam's only woman aviator" as she promoted the war effort.

Years later, in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Law would describe her first flying experience.

Ruth Law arriving New York City in 1916

Ruth Law arriving New York City in 1916

"There is an indescribable feeling which one experiences in flying; it comes with no other form of sport or navigation. It takes courage and daring; and one must be self-possessed, for there are moments when one's wits are tested to the full. Yet there is an exhilaration that compensates for all one's efforts. I had the sensation of being shot out of a gun, as we rose from the earth. Then, slowly, I grew used to the feeling, and the joy of rising up into the air and watching the earth recede, too. It took possession of me. "