Women firsts: Joy Lofthouse, WWII pilot

Joy Lofthouse and her sister Yvonne, thanks to Pauline Gower, who persisted in questioning Parliament why women weren’t allowed to fly planes, eventually making it possible for the pair to join the Air Transport Auxiliary in 1943. Their job? Ferry Spitfires and Hurricanes from the front lines to the factory for servicing. This in itself was a dangerous job, and back then, for a woman to take on such work, was also unheard of.
What is also amazing is that they actually earned the same pay as the male pilots. Ironic, since that rarely happens even today.

When recently interviewed, Mrs. Lofthouse said she was proud of the work she’d done and did not concern herself with the dangers. It was important to her to be a part of the war effort, and, she said, to have the opportunity to be her own person and earn an income at a time where most women were concerned about getting married and having children. She loved the independence this job gave her. She also reveled in the reactions from people back then when she told them she flew aircraft before she learned to drive.

Then, at the age of 92, Mrs. Lofthouse had the honor to fly a Spitfire once again, 70 years after she’d last flown. This both thrilled and delighted her, if not scared her a bit. But she managed and said she felt young again. Sadly, she passed away just days before her 93rd birthday, but she will always be remembered not only for one of the first to enter man’s flying world, but as a trailblazer for women’s rights in equal pay for equal work.

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