Today flying is an important mode of travel in Alaska. In our earlier history flying was a vital means of travel. It has always been a predominantly male occupation/sport but there were womenwho took on the challenge of flying in Alaska. Marvel Crosson was a part of Alaska's early flying history. She was the first woman in Alaska to receive her pilot's license. She learned to fly in San Diego, California. It was at this time that her brother decide that he wanted to go to Alaska. There was only enough money for one of them to go so she stayed in San Diego. To prove she was as good as a man she logged in over 200 hours of solo flying while he was gone! She was friends with many of the pilots at the airfield where she worked but she wrote,
|"There was something about this fellowship that used to get under my skin and make me bite my lips. These good fellows never forgot that I was a girl! There was a shade of condescension in their palship - they acted as though it was a pleasant thing for a girl to be interested in flying, but 'just among us men' it was of no importance. I could feel the sex line drawn against me, in spite of the fact that they were splendid fellows and pals of Joe."|
Marvel went with her brother Joe on his second trip to Alaska to try bush flying. They arrived in Alaska in 1927. In that same year, Marvel passed her flight examination and received the first pilot's license ever earned by a woman in the Alaska territory.
At the time that Marvel first arrived in Alaska pilots were not very popular. Dog mushers and local business owners were not happy. They were losing business. People were travelling by plane, sending their freight by plane, and the mail would go by plane. That meant that the dog sleds that used to carry those items would be out of work and therefore the mushers would not pass through the towns and local businesses and stop there and spend money. Some business owners put up signs that said "No dogs nor pilots allowed."
Even with all of this opposition Marvel continued flying and her flying skills improved. In spring of 1929 she set a new altitude record for women. That fall she entered the National Women's Air Derby. This was the last event of her career. On August 19, 1929, her plane developed engine problems and crashed. Her body was found entangled in a parachute that had opened too late.
© Copyright 1997 Elizabeth Beckett and Sarah Teel
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