Today and tomorrow, the Iowa City Municipal Airport will be a stop on the Air Race Classic race from Concord, California, to New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. More than 100 pilots on 52 teams of compete in the all-female air race. The Air Race Classic began in 1977 and is the longest-running air race for women pilots. It follows in the tradition of the All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race, which began in 1947, and the Women’s Air Derby, which began in 1929 because women pilots were barred from entering air races at that time. Iowa City was to be a stop in 2011 but bad weather forced the race to be rerouted. Amelia Earhart competed in that 1929 race along with 19 other women. I wonder how many of the pilots racing today had idolized Amelia Earhart as little girls. I know she was part of my fantasy life as a child.
The Iowa City Public Library has photographs of the Iowa City Municipal Airport dating back to 1922 in its Digital History Project . I looked through them hoping to find of a photograph of Amelia Earhart as I had read that she had flown into Iowa City. I couldn’t find her ever landing at the airport, but I did find that she had lectured at the University of Iowa on March 31, 1936. On April 1, 1936 The Daily Iowan reported on her speech – Her name is Amelia Earhart and not Mrs. Putnam, Amelia Earhart Putnam told newspapermen last night. Addressed as Mrs. Putnam, the woman flier smiling requested, “Call me Miss Earhart please.” “I am still Miss Earhart professionally,” she said, ” an my husband himself has never introduced me as Mr.s Putnam.”
The lecture was at the Iowa Memorial Union and more than 1, 800 attended. How many women who heard Amelia Earhart that night went on to get a pilot’s license and how many of them flew in the Women’s Army Air Corp (WAAC) in World War II. Do you have a story of early Iowa City aviation or aviatrix history? The Iowa City Public Library would love to learn about it.