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Women in Aviation

Grade Level: Grades 9-12
Subject of Study: Social Studies/History
Concept/Objective: During World War II, young women pilots were selected by the Air Force to be the first women in history trained to fly American military aircraft. They became pioneers, heroes, and role models. They were the Women Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs. Lesson objective: understanding the significant roles of women in WWII, especailly the WASPs (Women Air Force Service Pilots).


Targeted Academic Expectation:

Program of Studies Achievement Standards:

Core Content for Assessment

Core Content for Social Studies Assessment, Grades 9-12

The history of the United States is a chronicle of a diverse people and the nation they formed.
The history of the world is a chronicle of human activities and human societies.


Instructional Strategies and Activities

Background Information for Teacher

“This is not a time when women should be patient. We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability and every weapon possible. Women pilots, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used.”

—Eleanor Roosevelt, 1942

“If the nation ever again needs them, American women will respond. Never again will they have to prove they can do any flying job the military has. Not as an experiment. Not to fill in for men. They will fly as commissioned officers in the future Air Force of the United States with equal pay, hospitalization, insurance, veterans’ benefits. The WASP have earned it for these women of the future.”

—On Final Approach by Byrd Howell Granger, p. 476

“You don’t need legislation to prove something.... You can be whatever you set your heart and head to be, and don’t let anybody tell you you can’t be, because 1078 women pilots did it in World War II.”

—Annelle Henderson Bulechek, 44-w-2

The WAFS (Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron) were officially the first women pilots to fly military planes. Nancy Harkness Love began this ferrying squadron. Then the WASP training program started, and the WAFS became part of the WASP. Their requirements were strict, and many of these women were instructors.

In the beginning, the WASP program signed up only the most experienced women pilots—women who had spent many hours flying planes! As the program carried on successfully, requirements became more lenient. Still, women were treated differently from men. While NO pilot hours were required of male pilots, even the last classes of WASPs were required to have had a minimum of 35 pilot hours.

What did the WASP pilots do? They ferried B-17s to aviation airfields and targets. They did everything except combat.

There were fewer than 1,100 WASPs.

This lesson is designed to inform and educate students of an incredible time in our history, both in aviation and in women’s rights.

Lesson Plan

Introduce the lesson by talking about aviation. Ask whether anyone has ever flown a plane, traveled via plane, or thought of aviation as a career. What roles did aircraft play in WWII? Did students know that women and aircraft were an integral part of the success of the war?

Discuss women’s rights and roles in the 1940s with students. How were women perceived during this time?

While watching the following program, jot down three facts about women in aviation. What aircraft did they fly? What careers did they hold? What makes their roles significant to us today?

Watch: KET’s Electronic Field Trip to the Aviation Museum of Kentucky.

Discuss the program and students’ responses. Discuss the WASP project and World War II in more depth.

The following women are very important in Kentucky and/or aviation history. Have students select one name from the list (add more names, if you like), research that woman and her role in our history, and write a brief biography.

Students should share their findings with the class.

Instructional Support/Resources/Materials


Web Links:

Open-Response Assessment

It is 1943, you are a news reporter, and you have been asked to write a feature article for your local newspaper about a controversial issue: Women Pilots Join Male Cadets in the Skies over the United States. You must define this new role of women in the military and why it is necessary to the success of the war.


Open-Response Scoring Guide

4 Student exhibits extensive understanding of concepts and vocabulary while consistently and effectively communicating this knowledge and understanding with the use of insightful supporting examples or details.
3 Student exhibits broad understanding of concepts and vocabulary while effectively communicating this knowledge and understanding with the use of supporting examples or details.
2 Student exhibits basic understanding of concepts and vocabulary while somewhat effectively communicating this knowledge and understanding with the use of some supporting examples or details.
1 Student exhibits minimal understanding of concepts and vocabulary while ineffectively communicating this limited knowledge and understanding with the use of no supporting examples or details.
0 Blank, no answer, or irrelevant response.

Portfolio-Appropriate Writing for the Lesson

Literary: Write a monologue of a female aviation pioneer you have studied. The monologue should reflect the time period in which the pilot marked our history and the trials she had to overcome in her position.

Transactive: Write a letter to a female aviation pioneer that you have studied or would like to meet to discuss her experience, her motivation, and her success. In the letter, state why you picked her and what impact she has had on you as an individual. Tell her about how she has influenced women. Ask her any questions you would like answered.

Extensions for Diverse Learners

Applications Across the Curriculum

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