International Women’s Day

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March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD) which is a day set aside to recognize women’s achievements throughout history.  This year’s theme is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 World.”

Women have taken great strides over the years in many fields including politics, sports, science, and aviation.  There are many triumphs and firsts by women in aviation.  Harriet Quimby is known for being the first US licensed woman pilot.  She also was the first American woman to fly across the English Channel.  Bessie Coleman was the first African American woman to obtain an International Pilot license.  But probably the most well-known woman in aviation is Amelia Earhart.  She is the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. 

But did you know that Amelia Earhart was a nurse?  During World War I, Amelia traveled to Toronto to visit her sister.  While there, Amelia witnessed the wounded soldiers returning home and decided to be trained as a nurse’s aide by the Red Cross.  She began serving with the Voluntary Aid Detachment at Spadina Military Hospital (1).  Her duties included preparing food in the kitchen for patients with special diets and handing out prescribed medication in the hospital’s dispensary. (2)

Amelia, too, lived through a pandemic: the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.  As the pandemic reached Toronto, Amelia pressed on as a nurse, working strenuously and taking on night shifts.  While helping others, Amelia fell ill with pneumonia.  It took almost a whole year for Amelia to recover.  She continued to suffer the effects of the illness which affected future activities including flying.

We can learn a lot from Amelia and her determination.  She never gave up.  She became an international celebrity.  Among her accomplishments in aviation, Amelia was a successful author.  She wrote various magazine articles, newspaper columns, and essays, and published two books based upon her experiences as a pilot during her lifetime. (3)

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1(Popplewell, Brett. “The city Amelia loved”. Archived June 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Toronto Star, June 29, 2008. Retrieved: March 5, 2021.)

2(“Portrait of Earhart as a volunteer nurse in Toronto.” Archived September 24, 2017, at the Wayback Machine Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Retrieved: March 5, 2021.)

3(“Amelia Earhart.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Earhart. Retrieved: March 5, 2021.)