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NO PLACE FOR A LADY: THE STORY OF CANADIAN WOMEN PILOTS 1928-1992

Render, Shirley
Winnipeg, Portage & Main Press, 1992. 389pp, cloth, $39.95, ISBN 0-969-4264-2-9. CIP


Grades 9 up/Ages 14 and up

Reviewed by Esther Hutchison

Volume 21 Number 2
1993 March


Some readers may be surprised at the quantity of material available on this subject. This thoroughly researched book is filled with interesting first-person accounts of the early days of flying and the women who fought to make a place for themselves in that world. They were opposed by male pilots, the public, and those in authority, who were convinced that the cockpit was "no place for a lady." This tells the stories of women who repeatedly fought the battle to change their minds.

From early barn-stormers through the WASPs and ATA who ferried planes during the war to bush pilots in the north, the fight for acceptance continued. The end of the war presented new challenges, as women attempted to join civilian air services. Some were accepted as instructors. Others, after battling great odds to learn to fly and making repeated applications for flying jobs, were forced by economic pressures to give up flying altogether. Most could not afford to continue flying as a hobby. The social climate changed gradually in the 1970s with the rise of the women's liberation movement and stronger social pressures to give women chances previously denied.

The story is told chronologically, ending with a tribute to Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar. Paralleling the text are quotations and short biographies of individual women. Pictures of the women and their planes give us an idea of the conditions of the day. The author, Shirley Render, is a member of Manitoba's provincial legislature. She is also a pilot and aviation historian, as well as president of the Western Canadian Aviation Museum. As a result of her research on Canadian women pilots, she became the first Canadian winner of the Amelia Earhart Award. Her master's thesis, for which she won numerous awards, was entitled "The Development of Commercial Aviation in Canada."

Thoroughly researched and indexed, this book also contains appendices listing names of the first women pilots and of all pilots contacted. Also included is a complete list of secondary sources.

The book is attractively designed with many photos and clippings reproduced throughout. The story-telling is fresh and lively, with touches of humour. These stories of persistence, determination and courage make this a worthwhile addition to any collection.

Highly recommended.


Esther Hutchison is a library assistant at Spruce Grove Public Library in Spruce Grove, Alberta
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