Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie Discussion (April 1996)

Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie Discussion

Query: From Janann Sherman 25 April 1996

This is a query about any information concerning aviation pioneer Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie. She was born in Des Moines in 1902, died in Indianapolis in 1975. In between she broke numerous flying records, including winning the Women's Air Derby in 1929. In the 20s, she was also a member of Glenn Messer Flying Circus where she developed and performed a double parachute drop. During the 1920s she received the first federal pilot's license and the first aircraft mechanic's license to be issued to a woman, and during FDR's campaign in 1932, she was his pilot. After his election he appointed her to serve as liaison between the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the Bureau of Air Commerce. She was also active in the Civil Aeronautics Administration until into the 1950s. She and her husband operated a training school at Memphis and I believe the control tower at Memphis International is named for the Omlies.

I would appreciate hearing from anyone with leads on information about this fascinating woman aviator--aviatrix? Thanks.


>From June Cotter 29 April 1996

You may find this site interesting and helpful. It is the Women's Air and Space Museum, and the webmistress has been very helpful if the site doesn't have what you need.

>From Angie Dorman 29 April 1996

Try a book called _Heroines of the Sky_ by Jean Adams & Margaret Kimball in collaboration with Jeanette Eaton((Doubleday,Doran& Co; Garden City, NY; 1942) There's a chapter of PFO and numerous other aviation pioneers.

>From Karen Martin 03 May 1996

This is in response...about Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie. While I'm not able to help directly, I thought I might offer the following:

I am researching the life of Lady Mary Bailey, an English aviatrix (I *like* the word) who lived and flew in the same period: she was born in 1890, dies in 1960, got her pilot's license and set the altitude record in 1926, flew from London to Cape Town and back again(solo) in 1928/9, and so on. She was Irish, married to South Africa entrepreneur, Sir Abe Bailey.

I have been working on her biography for almost two years and could make suggestions about sources you might follow up, and share the strategies I have employed to find interesting bits and pieces. I am also interested in other women pilots of that time, and surprised that I have not come across PFO yet. My focus has been principally on English women, but I have done some work on early aviation in the United States, which I would be glad to pass on if it appears to offer some clues.

I am interested in the *type* of information that is available, and what is lacking. I have access to both private and public material on Lady Bailey and am finding the elisions and elaborations that make themselves known in this way, absolutely fascinating.

Perhaps it is appropriate for me to communicate privately with Ms. Sherman? I am fairly new to the list and uncertain about the sorts of exchanges that are useful to other subscribers. Thank you.

From: E. Heinrichs 06 May 1996

Re: PFO...the above aviatrix is mentioned a couple of times in _Women of the Air_ by Judy Lomax; Ballantine Book, 1987. This is not a particular recommendation of the book...I happened to pick it up at a garage sale last summer!

>From Irene Stuber 06 May 1996

In looking up something else I came across this in my notes and may be helpful to whomever is researching Omlie:

In 1933, PFO had been appointed a special assistant for the governmental department that would many years later become NASA. She convinced the Airport Marking and Mapping Section of the Bureau of Air Commerce to get the states involved, and she directed the all-woman staff as the Bureau of Air Commerce's National Air Marking Program.(women were cheaper and would work harder.)

In 1935, Omlie chose five leading women pilots as field representatives for the program: Louise Thaden(first woman to beat men in a cross-country race), Helen Richie, Blanche Noyes, Nancy Harkness(Love) (who would head the U.S. Air Transport Command in WWII), and Helen McCloskey.

>From    Maria Elena Raymond  
      15 May 1996

PFO is mentioned in a book entitled _Ladybirds: the Untold Story of Women Pilots in America_ by Henry M. Holden and Capt. Lori Griffith; Black Hawk publishing, 1991