Women Aviators in Pre-War France

In the years after the First World War, aviation became the most exciting form of transport, the spirit of a new age; but for French women, as Sian Reynolds explains, it was also a paradigm of their struggle for equality.

Aviators of both sexes had something of the status of film stars in the inter-war years, in France and indeed elsewhere. Endlessly photographed, whether men or women, they seemed equally heroic central figures in an epic of apparently identical character. A small aircraft would taxi to a halt on some bumpy airfield in Morocco, the Far East or the Ile-de-France, and a lone figure would climb out, to be welcomed by a reception committee and sometimes an excited crowd. Or else the solitary flier would be reported missing, his or her chances of survival shrinking with every hour that passed. The differences in the lives of men and women pilots that lay behind this familiar scenario were not always obvious, but they fit into what is beginning to look like a complex period in French history for relations between the sexes.

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