The Ninety-Nines Was Amelia Earhart’s Club for Female Aviators

The first pilot's licenses in the US were issued in 1927. Within two years, there were over 9,000 men with licenses, and only 117 women. Those women were adventurous, independent, and skilled, but they were treated as a novelty. A woman could find blissful freedom in the skies, and still return to headlines about what her makeup looked like when she took off. Many of the women who were pilots knew each other somewhat through competitions and air shows, so in 1929, six pilots, including Amelia Earhart, proposed a club where they could share their experiences and support each other.  

Later that year, [pilot Opal] Kunz explained in a letter to a fellow female aviator why such a group was so critical. It wasn’t, she wrote, that there was any conflict with male pilots. “This is exactly the opposite to the facts. We want no militant girl pilots. We are not fighting for anything.” Instead, the Ninety-Nines wanted women in aviation to be treated as equals, “rather than spoiled as something rare and very precious.” Instead of overblown headlines about minor female achievements, they wanted women to be treated as peers and given identical opportunities to the men who did, as she wrote, such “marvelous things in the air … We believe that our girls can and will learn to fly as well as the average man, better than many, but it does not seem likely that we will ever equal the remarkable skill of countless men fliers both in our own country and abroad.” That same year, Earhart is said to have proclaimed: “If enough of us keep trying, we’ll get someplace.”

The club eventually became known as the Ninety-Nines, with Earhart elected as their first president. They worked to send young women to aviation school, and supplied pilots in World War II. And the club is still going today. Read about the Ninety-Nines at Atlas Obscura.

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