FINDING DOROTHY SCOTT
Letters of a WASP Pilot
Sarah Byrn Rickman
Genre: Military History / Biography
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Date of Publication: May 30, 2016
Number of Pages: 288
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More than eleven hundred women pilots flew military aircraft for the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. These pioneering female aviators were known first as WAFS (Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron) and eventually as WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). Thirty-eight of them died while serving their country.
Dorothy Scott was one of the thirty-eight. She died in a mid-air crash at the age of twenty-three.
Born in 1920, Scott was a member of the first group of women selected to fly as ferry pilots for the Army Air Forces. Her story would have been lost had her twin brother not donated her wartime letters home to the WASP Archives. Dorothy’s extraordinary voice, as heard through her lively letters, tells of her initial decision to serve, and then of her training and service, first as a part of the WAFS and then the WASP. The letters offer a window into the mind of a young, patriotic, funny, and ambitious young woman who was determined to use her piloting skills to help the US war effort. The letters also offer archival records of the day-to-day barracks life for the first women to fly military aircraft. The WASP received some long overdue recognition in 2010 when they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal-the highest honor that Congress can bestow on civilians.
PURCHASE FROM TEXAS TECH PRESS:
Growing up, history never interested me much. Foolish child. As a grownup, I am starting to understand and genuinely reflect on the quote, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
In elementary school, the movie “A League of Their Own” opened my eyes to the patriotism and drive of American (and Canadian) women during WWII. Things that public school history classes only briefly touched. At least they taught us about Rosie the Riveter, I guess. But why did we never hear about the female aviators?
I’m not exaggerating here. This book was the FIRST time I’ve ever heard about the WAFS. Rickman’s talent for unfolding an important and interesting part of history is a relief. Combined with Dorothy’s wonderful letters, I have hope that children from here on out will not be as ignorant as I have been. With the recognition that the WASPs (not a typo, read the book to see what I did there) are finally receiving from our government, I truly hope to see history textbooks share these wonderful stories of courageous women.
I would love to see this book on the required reading lists of American History and Women’s Studies courses. Rickman and Dorothy’s voices are so vibrant that they make the material interesting, and their knowledge of events and the particulars of military and aviation make this book a standout among history texts.
In the Epilogue, Rickman share’s a paper that Dorothy wrote titled “A Private Utopia”. It has cute things like, “Dentists would be required to run Disney cartoons for their patients” to serious like “all doctors would have the responsibility of keeping the people well instead of just getting them that way.” Another great bit I liked was, “The children would be “The Chosen People.” All of them would be raised in the country, all learn to shoot, ride, and take care of pets. Their schooling would include more teachers, fewer exams, and better vocational guidance – and incidentally, longer vacations. They would be sorted according to ability, and competition made the incentive for work.”
Can you imagine the even larger impact Dorothy Scott would have made on our world if she had lived beyond her 23 years? This from a young woman who didn’t see herself as a leader, but through her kindness and handwork, inspired her superiors to do better and encouraged her students to be the best possible aviators that they could be.
“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” We still see gender inequality today. A quote is making the rounds on Facebook that goes: “1. Being a woman is kind of like being a cyclist in a city where all the cars represent men. 2. You’re supposed to be able to share the road equally with cars, but that’s not how it works. 3. The roads are built for cars and you spend a great deal of physical and mental energy being defensive and trying not to get hurt.”
Nancy Love and the WASP Militarization Committee strived to overturn the injustices that the brave female aviators faced. I hope that we can build on their strength so that we meet equality issues head on and beat them down. Let’s fix things now, not in retrospect.
Sarah Byrn Rickman is editor of the official WASP of World War II newsletter, the author of five previous books about the WASP, and an amateur pilot. In addition to her books, Sarah is the author of numerous magazine and journal articles about the WASP. Sarah is a former reporter/columnist for The Detroit News (Michigan) and former editor of the Centerville-Bellbrook Times (Ohio). She earned her B.A. in English from Vanderbilt University and an M.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University McGregor.
Sarah was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and grew up in Denver, Colorado. She now lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Richard, and their black Lab, Lady.
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