The Fly Girls Revolt: The Story of the Women Who Kicked Open the Door to Fly in Combat
by Eileen A. Bjorkman

Published: 2023-09-12T00:0
Paperback : 288 pages
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This is the untold story of the women military aviators of the 1970s and 1980s who kicked open the door to fly in combat in 1993—along with the story of the women who paved the way before them.

In 1993, U.S. women earned the right to fly in combat, but the full story of how it ...

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This is the untold story of the women military aviators of the 1970s and 1980s who kicked open the door to fly in combat in 1993—along with the story of the women who paved the way before them.

In 1993, U.S. women earned the right to fly in combat, but the full story of how it happened is largely unknown. From the first women in the military in World War II to the final push in the 1990s, The Fly Girls Revolt chronicles the actions of a band of women who overcame decades of discrimination and prevailed against bureaucrats, chauvinists, anti-feminists, and even other military women.

Drawing on extensive research, interviews with women who served in the 1970s and 1980s, and her personal experiences in the Air Force, Eileen Bjorkman weaves together a riveting tale of the women who fought for the right to enter combat and be treated as equal partners in the U.S. military.

Although the military had begun training women as aviators in 1973, by a law of Congress they could not fly in harm’s way. Time and again when a woman graduated at the top of her pilot training class, a less-qualified male pilot was sent to fly a combat aircraft in her place.

Most of the women who fought for change between World War II and today would never fly in combat themselves, but they earned their places in history by strengthening the U.S. military and ensuring future women would not be denied opportunities solely because of their sex. The Fly Girls Revolt is their story.

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Chapter 1
We Need Women; We Don’t Need Women (1940s)

Jacqueline Cochran waited impatiently in her New York City apartment while a group of men in Canada debated her fate. It was June 1941, and she hoped to ferry an American bomber aircraft across the Atlantic and deliver it to the Royal Air Force. The blonde aviatrix, considered the queen of aviation in the United States, was renowned for daredevil record-breaking flights and her cosmetics business, activities that might seem incompatible. But Cochran, who believed that women were just as good at flying airplanes as men, also believed it was “a woman’s duty to be as presentable as her circumstances of time and purse permit.” Her own time available might only be a few minutes to comb her hair and daub on fresh lipstick at the end of an eleven-hour flight, but Cochran always appeared before the cameras looking as if she had just stepped out of a beauty salon. Except for her fingernails. She never wore polish to avoid attracting attention to her masculine-appearing hands. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the author:

1. Before you read this book, were you aware that women served in large numbers during World War II? Discuss the limitations placed on them during World War II and through the 1960s. What societal influences led to the gradual lifting of these limitations?

2. To cover 50 years of history, the book has many characters. Discuss your favorite characters. Were there any characters who surprised you, either positively or negatively? What did you think about the author including herself as a character?

3. The vast majority of the women who fought for change never benefited from the change because they were either not in the military or were too old by then. Why did they fight for change if there was no benefit to them? Would you be willing to fight for a cause if it didn’t benefit you personally? What other causes and movements today may fall into this category?

4. Were you surprised at the number of men who were supportive of women in the military gaining more rights and access to more career fields? Who were some of those men? Why did they support women when others were opposed? How did this conflict come to a head in the 1970s during testimony about admitting women to the military academies?

5. What were some of the unintended consequences of the vagueness of the combat exclusion laws when women began serving in larger numbers in the 1970s and 1980s, especially when women began flying as pilots, navigators, and other aircrew members? Discuss how the laws, in addition to being unfair to women, caused confusion among commanders and had the potential to reduce the effectiveness of a unit.

6. Do you think that the laws would have been repealed eventually even if the Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991 hadn’t occurred? Discuss some of the events of the 1980s and early 1990s that made people realize the combat exclusion laws weren’t working.

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