blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Clipped Wings – Molly Merryman*

In her exhilerating book Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII, author Molly Merryman shines light on the critical and dangerous work of the daring female aviators who changed history. New York University Press classics series has just updated the book with Merryman’s reflections on the changes in women’s aviation in the past twenty years. A documentary based on Merryman’s work, Coming Home: Fight For A Legacy, is currently in production.

The WASP directly challenged the assumptions of male supremacy in wartime culture. They flew the fastest fighter planes and heaviest bombers; they test-piloted experimental models and worked in the development of weapons systems. Yet the WASP were the only women’s auxiliary within the armed services of World War II that was not militarized.

In Clipped Wings, Merryman draws upon finally-declassified military documents, congressional records, and interviews with the women who served as WASP during World War II to trace the history of the over one thousand pilots who served their country as the first women to fly military planes. She examines the social pressures that culminated in their disbandment in 1944—even though a wartime need for their services still existed—and documents their struggles and eventual success, in 1977, to gain military status and receive veterans’ benefits.

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WASP Missions

Airplane ferrying was the initial mission for which WASPs were created, and it would occupy nearly half of all active WASP graduates when the program ended in December 1944. Planes produced in the United States needed to be flown from the factories to air bases at home, in Canada, and overseas. To handle this transportation demand, the ATC hired thousands of male civilian pilots to ferry planes. These male pilots were later commissioned directly into the AAF if they met the requirement and desired commissioning. The WASPs were brought on as ferrying pilots, and by the time they were disbanded in December 1944, they had delivered 12,652 planes on domestic missions. By that time, 141 WASPs were assigned to the ATC. Although they comprised a small percentage of the total Ferrying Division pilots, WASPs had a significant impact. By 1944, WASPs were ferrying the majority of all pursuit planes and were so integrated into the Ferrying Division that their disbandment caused delays in pursuit deliveries.

The days of ferrying pilots were long and unpredictable. At bases that handled a range of planes, pilots did not know from one day to the next what planes they would be flying or how long of a flight to expect. In Minton’s words, “We usually reported to the flight line at seven o’clock in the morning and looked at the board to see what had been assigned us in the way of an airplane, where it went and what we would need in the way of equipment to take along, and then we would go out to find our airplane and sign it out at operations and check it over to be sure everything was okay with the airplane. And then we would take off to wherever the plane was supposed to go.”

Ferrying military aircraft during World War II was not an easy task. The majority of these planes were not equipped with radios, so pilots navigated by comparing air maps with physical cues (highways, mountains, rivers, etc.) or by flying the beam. (The “beam” was a radio transmission of Morse code signals. A grid of such beams was established across the United States. To follow the beam, a pilot would listen on her headphone for aural “blips” or tones to direct her. This required a great deal of concentration and was not always accurate.) Both navigational techniques were difficult, and this was compounded by the facts that many air bases and factories were camouflaged, blackouts were maintained in coastal areas, and the navigational beams were prone to breaking down. Problems sometimes arose with the planes themselves, which ha d been tested at the factories but never flown. Cross-continental flights often took several days, depending on the planes being flown and weather conditions.

In addition, planes equipped with top secret munitions or accessories had to be guarded while on the ground, and WASPs received orders to protect these planes at all cost. WASPs flying these planes were issued .45 caliber pistols and were trained to fire machine guns.

Molly Merryman, Ph.D. is the founding director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and an Associate Professor at Kent State University. She is the Historical Research Producer on the upcoming Red Door Films documentary about the WASP, Coming Home: Fight For A Legacy. She has directed and produced nine documentaries that have been broadcast and screened in the United States and United Kingdom. She is the research director for the Queer Britain national LGBT+ museum and is a visiting professor and advisory board member for the Queer History Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London. Merryman is the vice president of the International Visual Sociology Association.

Deborah Brosseau Communications

Giveaway: $25 Amazon GC (International)

My thoughts:

This was really interesting and packed with details from Congressional hearings, people’s memories and official records of the WASPS. At times it was a little hard to engage with all the facts and figures, but I feel like I learnt an awful lot about the fight to allow women to fly, from WW2, right up to recent times.

I am always fascinated by incredibly brave and determined women who repeatedly get shot down and “put in their place” by often incredibly ignorant men who have completely lost sight of the big picture. These women were extraordinary and wanted to fly in combat, just like men, and being smaller and lighter were probably better built for such roles.

A really fascinating insight into the battle for recognition and understanding of how much female pilots could, and indeed have, contributed.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Sparrow Alone – Mim Eichmann*


1890s. Colorado. Following her mother’s sudden death, thirteen-year-old Hannah Owens is hired as domestic help by a wealthy doctor’s family in Colorado Springs. When the doctor declares bankruptcy and abandons his family to finance his mistress Pearl DeVere’s brothel,

Hannah is thrown into a world of gold mining bonanzas and busts, rampant prostitution and the economic, political and cultural upheavals of the era.

Two of Cripple Creek’s most colorful historic characters, Winfield Scott Stratton, eccentric owner of the richest gold mine in Cripple Creek, and Pearl DeVere, the beautiful madam of The Old Homestead come to life as this old-fashioned, coming-of-age saga unfolds, a tribute to the women who set the stage for women’s rights.

My thoughts:

This was really interesting, I’m always fascinated by stories of women’s lives through history and to be honest, the Colorado gold rush isn’t something I know much about, being British. My cousin and her family now live there though, so this added a little extra interest for me.

Hannah Owens is a brave and resourceful woman, she doesn’t expect much from her hard scrabble life on the fringes of the mining community of Cripple Creek. She’s willing to work hard and fight.

She finds herself raising a child, the daughter of her friend Abigail, and singing at events hosted in the fanciest brothel in town. None of this is easy, and despite her youth she is level headed and wise beyond her years.

The story was fascinating and I cheered Hannah on as she fought to live her life on her own terms and survived some truly horrible things. The ending made me cross, just as everything was finally working out and I can only hope that in the sequel Hannah doesn’t have to suffer too much.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog awards, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Imperfect Alchemist – Naomi Miller*

In Tudor England, two women dare to be different …

Two women. One bond that will unite them across years and social divides.

England, 1575. Mary Sidney, who will go on to claim a spot at the heart of Elizabethan court life and culture, is a fourteen-year-old navigating grief and her first awareness of love and desire. Her sharp mind is less interested in the dynastic alliances and marriages that concern her father, but will she be able to forge a place for herself and her writing in the years to come?

Rose Commin, a young country girl with a surprising talent for drawing, is desperate to shrug off the slurs of witchcraft which have tarnished life at home. The opportunity to work at Wilton House, the Earl of Pembroke’s Wiltshire residence, is her chance.

Defying the conventions of their time, these two women, mistress and maid, will find themselves facing the triumphs, revelations and dangers that lie ahead together.

Naomi Miller is professor of English at Smith College, Massachusetts. She is author or editor of nine books in early modern studies and Imperfect Alchemist is her first novel.

My thoughts:

This was very good, I enjoyed it a lot. One of my favourite types of historical fiction is bringing back to public consciousness amazing women about whom we know very little, as they weren’t the ones writing the records or histories.

Duchess Mary Sidney Herbert was a pioneering writer and alchemist, a woman way ahead of her time. She knew many of the notable figures of her time, including Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare. As well as her interest in alchemy, she wrote a play about Cleopatra and gathered a Circle of engaging minds around her, both men and women to discuss art, literature, science and other topics.

Naomi Miller adds flesh to the bones of Mary’s life, illuminating this fascinating woman and bringing her brilliantly to life. By adding in the fictional Rose, her maid and companion, she adds heart and friendship to what may well have been a quiet household under the Duke, who is uncomfortable with his younger wife’s friendships with men like Walter Raleigh.

Rose is another interesting figure, despite being fictional, she bridges the gap between the herbal remedies of many a midwife or wise woman and the “alchemy” of the upper classes, where science met wishful thinking (the Philosopher’s Stone, the Elixir of Life).

Rose is all too aware that for a woman of her class to dabble in healing can bring a charge of witchcraft, while women like Mary were encouraged to keep a still room and make home remedies.

Looking at class through these two women is interesting too, Rose’s father was a cloth merchant, albeit not a very successful one, but she’s not of the mercantile class, and can’t read and write to begin with.

I found this intriguing, that while Mary dreams of being a literary sensation and taken seriously by the male dominated world she lives in, all Rose wants is a cottage of her own and to maybe make and sell her herbal cures. Rose is more of a realist, enforcing the sense of Mary as a woman far ahead of her time.

Overall this is an incredibly engaging and intelligent book, it brought the late Elizabethan age vividly to life, with its Enlightenment ideals, but deeply ingrained misogyny, despite the gender of the monarch. I would love to learn more about Mary and the other women she encouraged to write and think for themselves. These women have too long been footnotes in history and deserve books of their own.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books

Book Blitz: Clipped Wings – Molly Merryman

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To celebrate the release of an upcoming documentary, Clipped Wings has received a timely re-release!

I am thrilled to share this extraordinary book with all of you today! Please read on for an excerpt from Clipped Wings by Molly Merryman!

ClippedWings (2)Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) of World War II

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

Genre: History/ WWII/ Avation/ Female Pilots

In her exhilerating book Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII, author Molly Merryman shines light on the critical and dangerous work of the daring female aviators who changed history. New York University Press classics series has just updated the book with Merryman’s reflections on the changes in women’s aviation in the past twenty years. A documentary based on Merryman’s work, Coming Home: Fight For A Legacy, is currently in production.

The WASP directly challenged the assumptions of male supremacy in wartime culture. They flew the fastest fighter planes and heaviest bombers; they test-piloted experimental models and worked in the development of weapons systems. Yet the WASP were the only women’s auxiliary within the armed services of World War II that was not militarized.

In Clipped Wings, Merryman draws upon finally-declassified military documents, congressional records, and interviews with the women who served as WASP during World War II to trace the history of the over one thousand pilots who served their country as the first women to fly military planes. She examines the social pressures that culminated in their disbandment in 1944—even though a wartime need for their services still existed—and documents their struggles and eventual success, in 1977, to gain military status and receive veterans’ benefits.

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

WASP Missions

Airplane ferrying was the initial mission for which WASPs were created, and it would occupy nearly half of all active WASP graduates when the program ended in December 1944. Planes produced in the United States needed to be flown from the factories to air bases at home, in Canada, and overseas. To handle this transportation demand, the ATC hired thousands of male civilian pilots to ferry planes. These male pilots were later commissioned directly into the AAF if they met the requirement and desired commissioning. The WASPs were brought on as ferrying pilots, and by the time they were disbanded in December 1944, they had delivered 12,652 planes on domestic missions. By that time, 141 WASPs were assigned to the ATC. Although they comprised a small percentage of the total Ferrying Division pilots, WASPs had a significant impact. By 1944, WASPs were ferrying the majority of all pursuit planes and were so integrated into the Ferrying Division that their disbandment caused delays in pursuit deliveries.

The days of ferrying pilots were long and unpredictable. At bases that handled a range of planes, pilots did not know from one day to the next what planes they would be flying or how long of a flight to expect. In Minton’s words, “We usually reported to the flight line at seven o’clock in the morning and looked at the board to see what had been assigned us in the way of an airplane, where it went and what we would need in the way of equipment to take along, and then we would go out to find our airplane and sign it out at operations and check it over to be sure everything was okay with the airplane. And then we would take off to wherever the plane was supposed to go.”

Ferrying military aircraft during World War II was not an easy task. The majority of these planes were not equipped with radios, so pilots navigated by comparing air maps with physical cues (highways, mountains, rivers, etc.) or by flying the beam. (The “beam” was a radio transmission of Morse code signals. A grid of such beams was established across the United States. To follow the beam, a pilot would listen on her headphone for aural “blips” or tones to direct her. This required a great deal of concentration and was not always accurate.) Both navigational techniques were difficult, and this was compounded by the facts that many air bases and factories were camouflaged, blackouts were maintained in coastal areas, and the navigational beams were prone to breaking down. Problems sometimes arose with the planes themselves, which ha d been tested at the factories but never flown. Cross-continental flights often took several days, depending on the planes being flown and weather conditions.

In addition, planes equipped with top secret munitions or accessories had to be guarded while on the ground, and WASPs received orders to protect these planes at all cost. WASPs flying these planes were issued .45 caliber pistols and were trained to fire machine guns.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

Merryman, Molly

Molly Merryman, Ph.D. is the founding director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and an Associate Professor at Kent State University. She is the Historical Research Producer on the upcoming Red Door Films documentary about the WASP, Coming Home: Fight For A Legacy. She has directed and produced nine documentaries that have been broadcast and screened in the United States and United Kingdom. She is the research director for the Queer Britain national LGBT+ museum and is a visiting professor and advisory board member for the Queer History Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London. Merryman is the vice president of the International Visual Sociology Association.

Deborah Brosseau Communications

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