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First Woman Pilot in South Dakota

Nellie Zabel Willhite was South Dakota's first woman pilot. Born in 1892, she became deaf two years later after contracting measles. She began flying at the age of 35 after her father gave her $200 for a flight course conducted by Dakota Airlines, Inc., of Sioux Falls. She also became a charter member of the Ninety-nine Club, named after the nation's ninety-nine women pilots at its founding in 1929. Famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart served as president. Willhite also participated in air shows throughout the country. This telegram requests Nellie's application for service as a pilot for the British Air Transport Auxiliary in 1942. The British Air Transport Auxiliary carried out ferrying duties of all types of military airplanes for the Royal Air Force. There is no record of Nellie Zabel Willhite's participation in the British Air Transport Auxiliary. Additional material in her collection suggests that she was not selected from the pool of American women pilots.

WESTERN UNION

MBB19 282/281 1,/164 NT=NEW YORK NY 23
NELLE ZABEL WILLHITE
=PO BOX 13


CONFIDENTIAL. ON BEHALF BRITISH AIR TRANSPORT AUXILIARY I AM WIRING ALL THE WOMEN PILOTS WHOSE ADDRESSES AVAILABLE TO ASK IF YOU WOULD BE WILLING TO VOLUNTEER FOR SERVICE WITH A NUCLEUS TO CONSTITUTE INITIAL CONTINGENT OF NEWLY-FORMED AMERICAN WOMEN'S SECTION OF ATA [Air Transport Auxiliary]FOR SERVICE IN BRITISH ISLES. REQUIREMENTS
COMPRISE REGULAR ATA EXAMINATION INCLUDING FLIGHT TEST AND PHYSICAL EXAMINATION IN MONTREAL. IF AFTER I HAVE INTERVIEWED YOU YOU ARE ACCEPTABLE YOU WILL RECEIVE YOUR TRANSPORTATION TO MONTREAL AND MAINTENANCE WHILE [THERE] IF IN MONTREAL YOU PASS YOUR FLIGHT TEST AND ALL OTHER REQUIREMENTS YOU WILL BE SENT TO ENGLAND. REMUNERATION SAME AS PAID ENGLISH WOMEN ATA PILOTS ABROAD AS WELL AS ADDITIONAL ACCUMULATION IN DOLLARS AT HOME. SUBSTANTIAL INSURANCE AND TWO WAY TRANSPORTATION FROM YOUR HOME TO ENGLAND. RANKS WOULD BE SAME GENERALLY AS ENGLISH ATA WOMEN PILOTS. UNIFORMS FURNISHED BY ATA. BELIEVE WE WILL GET ORGANIZED TO LEAVE ABOUT MARCH FIRST. EVERY FRONT NOW OUR FRONT AND FOR THOSE DESIRING QUICK ACTIVE SERVICE SHORT=

MBB19 2/117=
OF ACTUAL COMBAT BUT INCLUDING FLIGHT EXPERIENCE WITH COMBAT PLANES THIS SERVICE ABROAD SEEMS IDEAL CHANCE. I HAVE BEEN ASSURED BY THOSE IN AUTHORITY THAT WOMEN WILL NOT BE USED FOR FERRYING OR ANY ORGANIZED FLYING DUTIES IN AMERICA FOR MANY MONTHS. IF INTERESTED AND SO I WILL KNOW THE NUMBER AVAILABLE AND THEIR LOCATION FOR MY ITINERARY OF INTERVIEWS PLEASE WIRE ME 630 FIFTH AVENUE NEW YORK CITY AND YOU WILL RECEIVE LETTE[R] WITH MORE DETAILS. OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASES HAVE BEEN MADE BY THE BRITISH AIR COMMISSION AND YOU ARE REQUESTED TO RELEASE NO PUBLICITY AS A RESULT OF THIS TELEGRAM. IF YOU HAVE NAMES OF ANY WOMEN PILOTS I HAVE MISSED PASS ALONG YOUR TELEGRAM. CORDIAL REGARDS=

JACQUELINE COCHRAN.

630.

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