Author: Julia Lauria-Blum

Julia Lauria-Blum earned a degree in the Visual Arts at SUNY New Paltz. An early interest in women aviation pioneers led her to research the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of WW II. In 2001 she curated the permanent WASP exhibit at the American Airpower Museum (AAM) in Farmingdale, NY, and later curated 'Women Who Brought the War Home, Women War Correspondents, WWII’ at the AAM. Julia is the former curatorial assistant at the Cradle of Aviation Museum and is currently an editorial contributor for Metropolitan Airport News.

On June 12, 2001, a JetBlue airliner touched down at JFK International and taxiied to its gate after a two-and-a-half-hour flight north from West Palm Beach. On the other end of the jetway I stood, awaiting a woman who I had only corresponded with on the telephone and through the U.S. Mail in the months prior to her arrival. (Photo J.L. Blum) After accepting my invitation to attend the dedication of a new exhibit honoring the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of WWII that I had curated at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, Long Island, my special guest was…

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“I discovered early that the hardest thing to overcome is not a physical disability, but the mental condition which it induces. The world, I found, has a way of taking a man pretty much at his own rating.” Alexander de Seversky When thinking of the names of pioneering innovators who made their mark on history through their intellect, vision, or a brilliant invention, the names Edison, Bell, and Curie may come to mind. Of lesser notoriety, but no less a visionary, was Russian emigre Alexander P. de Seversky, a man of steadfast determination and foresight who in his lifetime became a…

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Jackie Cochran climbed to 45,000 feet in a Canadair F-86 Sabre jet, leaving a contrail of ice crystals behind her path. Achieving the highest altitude necessary, she did a split “S” curve to start a full-power, nearly vertical dive. Keeping the throttle at full power, Cochran read the numbers on the Machmeter aloud to Chuck Yeager, her good friend and the pilot of her chase plane. Facedown and diving at Mach 1 with blood surging to her brain she pulled out of the dive through the sound barrier becoming the first woman to fly faster than the speed of sound…

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The 20-year period between World War I and World War II, commonly referred to as the ‘Golden Age of Aviation’, was an exhilarating era when manned flight ‘came of age’. Between 1919 and 1929, aviation was still in its infancy, but with technological advances, the design and construction of ‘aeroplanes’ progressed from slow, wood-framed and fabric covered biplanes to fast, more efficient and powerful metal monoplanes. As the technology of aviation evolved, the pioneers of flight competed for speed, endurance, distance and altitude records, making monumental contributions to the progression of aviation in both the military and civilian arenas. One…

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Elise Raymonde Deroche was born in 1882 in Paris, France. Having a fondness for sports as a child and then for motorcycles, automobiles and ballooning, she later became an actress, taking the stage name of Baroness Raymonde de Laroche. Ever the thrill seeker, de Laroche then pursued another lofty quest, that of flying an aeroplane. In 1909, this was an especially lofty goal for a woman of her era and Raymonde appealed to her friend, French aviator and airplane builder, Charles Voisin to instruct her on how to fly. On March 8, 1910 Raymonde de Laroche became the first woman…

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In 1926, 14-year-old Lee Ya-Ching walked onto a movie set where a director, taken by her beauty, offered her the opportunity to act in silent films. Thus, began Lee’s career as a movie actress. Taking the stage name Li Dandan, she starred in eight films, becoming one of China’s most popular film actresses during her teen years. In 1928 she was offered the lead role of Hua Mulan in “Mulan Joins the Army”. In this film adaptation of the Hua Mulan legend, Lee plays a young woman protagonist who lives with her elderly father during the Northern Wei Dynasty. When…

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Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was born on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas. As one of 13 children born to sharecroppers, George and Susan Coleman, who were of Native American and African-American descent, Bessie worked as a child in the cotton fields, vowing to one day ‘’amount to something’’. Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman (Cradle of Aviation Museum) At the age of six, Coleman began attending school in Waxahachie, Texas in a one-room, segregated school house where she completed all eight grades. At age 12, Bessie was accepted into the Missionary Baptist Church School on a scholarship. Yearning to further her education she…

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History was made in 1943 when three pilots from Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, in Bethpage, NY, became the first women in the United States to test Navy fighter aircraft. One of these pioneering aviatrices was Barbara Kibbee Jayne. Hailing from Troy, NY, Barbara grew up with a desire to fly. As a child, Barbara and her brother would often jump off their garage roof to experience “flight”. But it wasn’t until she was 21 that her parents gave the official green light to pursue her passion. After earning a pilot license at the Ryan School of Aeronautics in San Diego,…

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Marjorie Gray in WASP Uniform c.1944 “The proudest moment of my life was not when I graduated from college, soloed my first airplane, obtained my commercial rating, received the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, or the Lady Hay Trophy – none of these times. It was when I received my silver wings as a graduate of the first class of women to receive military cadet flight training. I was one of 23 of my 28 classmates to complete the training” – Lt. Col. Marjorie M. Gray, USAF (Ret), in her address the Ninety-Nines, International Organization of Women Pilots, 1977 Marjorie Gray…

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