Book Review – The Originals by Sarah Byrn Rickman

    The Originals: The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of WW II
    Sarah Byrn Rickman

    Paperback: 412 pages
    Publisher: Disc-Us Books (June 2001)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 1584442646
    ISBN-13: 978-1584442646

    Back in March, 2010 I wrote a blog piece about an honor the WASPS – the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WW II – received many years after their actual service. I have had an interest in these ladies from the time a good friend, Marianne Verges, wrote her book, On Silver Wings, that chronicled some of the exploits of these amazing women who played such an important role in the war effort. The women were finally being recognized in a major way by receiving the Congressional Gold Medal.

    Marianne’s book was published in 1995, and in it she focused on how the ladies came together to form the WASPS, then took them through the war and the years following. Those early women pilots were women of wealth as flying was a hobby only for the rich. Jacqueline Cochran, who was married to a millionaire tycoon, was the impetus behind recruiting the female pilots and convincing the military to use them.  By the early 1940s, almost 2000 women had earned their wings and became indispensable to the war effort, ferrying planes around the country. The WASP was disbanded in late 1944 and the personnel were denied military rank; this they were finally awarded in 1973. An inspiring tale of a winning fight against prejudice.

    In this latest book about these amazing women, The Originals, the author introduces the women one by one, giving the reader a lot of biographical detail leading up to the momentous moment when they joined other female pilots in the WASPS. It was nice to get to know more about each of these women and their lives before the WASPS formed. Then the documentation of the achievements of these women pilots showcased the courage and spit that they brought to their missions. It is all written in a style that is engaging and easy to read. There are also lots of pictures that help tell the story of the women and what they accomplished.

    In visiting Ms. Rickman’s website, I noted that she  serves as the editor of the WASP News, published twice a year by Texas Woman’s University (TWU) in Denton, the home of the official WASP Archives. Since 2003, she has been a WASP oral historian for TWU, recording many of these ladies’ stories on audiotape.

    For anyone who is interested in reading about some of the strongest women in our history, I highly recommend both books. They complement each other nicely.

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