Featured Feminist: Elsie MacGill (Queen of the Hurricanes)

GlockomaFor those times when we want to fold like a bad poker hand, we desperately need inspiration to help us realize that we can pull ourselves out of the quicksand.

Inspiration can hit you between the eyes when you’re not looking (or even when you are). And now it’s gonna be aiming for you. Don’t worry – it won’t hurt. Actually, it’ll feel really good. And it doesn’t reek of rotten tomatoes.

I’d like to introduce you to the latest addition to Glockoma. Featured Feminist is a section I’ll use to post true stories about modern women and famous women in history who exemplify what feminism is all about. This will include writers, inventors, politicians, and  musicians, just to name a few. Feminist messages that help the women’s movement advance are everywhere if you look for them.

Since I believe in a school of feminism that encourages the involvement of and interaction with men, you’ll sometimes read about feminist men in the Featured Feminist section. This is very important to me because in all forms of media, we’re shown male chauvinist pig after male chauvinist pig – it gets more tiresome than a drunk pick-up line.

Let’s get to our very first profile!

GlockomaElsie MacGill

Nickname: Queen of the Hurricanes

Birthday: March 27, 1905

Birthplace: Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)

Claim to Fame: First woman in the world to design an airplane

Why You Should Care: She paved the path for many women in a field that is traditionally dominated by men. During WWII, she developed, designed, and tested aircraft as an aeronautical engineer.

And, according to Wikipedia,  she was the first woman to achieve a lot of other impressive things, too:

  • 1927 – First Canadian woman to earn her electrical engineering degree (University of Toronto)
  • 1929 – First woman in North America to earn her masters degree in aeronautical engineering (University of Michigan)
  • 1938
    • First woman elected to corporate membership in the Engineering Institute of Canada
    • First woman to hold the position of Chief Aeronautical Engineer (Canada Car and Foundry)
  • 1946 – First woman to be the Technical Advisor for the International Civil Aviation Organization
  • 1947 – First woman to chair a UN committee (She was the chairperson for the United Nations Stress Analysis Committee.)
  • 1953 – First woman outside the United States to be named Woman Engineer of the Year by the American Society of Women Engineers (She also was made an honourary member.)

Glockoma

GlockomaSome Other Awards & Recognition

  • 1941 – Gzowski Medal from the Engineering Institute of Canada for her paper entitled Factors Affecting the Mass Production of Aeroplanes
  • 1967 – Centennial Medal from the Canadian government
  • 1975 – Amelia Earhart Medal from the Ninety-Nines
  • 1979 – Gold Medal from the Ontario Association of Professional Engineers
  • 1983 – Inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame

GlockomaWhy I Consider Her a Feminist

All of the above already indicates that she’s clearly a fighter who came ready with her boxing gloves. And I bet they weren’t pink.

Well, there’s more to the story that illustrates her strong drive to succeed despite the obstacles.

Case in point: the doctors told her that most likely she’d be wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life after she got polio. But did she take the news sitting down? No. Instead, she taught herself how to walk with the support of metal canes.

And doctoral studies weren’t cheap. Don’t think that she got handouts for her education. During that time, Elsie MacGill financially supported herself by writing articles for magazines about planes and flying.

GlockomaWhy She’s Known as the ‘Queen of the Hurricanes’

When she worked for Canada Car and Foundry, she was chosen to build the Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft for the Royal Air Force. She also came up with new ideas for how to winterize the aircraft.

GlockomaElsie MacGill Was a Feminist Activist

In the 1960s, she focused on women’s rights issues and was the president of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. In 1971, she received the Order of Canada for her work as a member of the Ontario Status of Women’s Committee.

(The Order of Canada was concieved in 1967 to “[recognize] the achievement of outstanding merit or distinguished service by Canadians, through life-long contributions in every field of endeavour, and who made a major difference to Canada, as well as the efforts made by non-Canadians who have made the world better by their actions.”)

Elsie MacGill seems to have been a proud and vocal feminist, which I think is important. She was quoted saying, “I have received many engineering awards, but I hope I will also be remembered as an advocate for the rights of women and children.”

It frustrates me when some women are afraid to call themselves a feminist because they’re too lazy to deal with any societal backlash to the often-stigmatized label. Kudos to the Queen of the Hurricanes for not shying away. May we all be so brave.

Advertisements

2 responses to this post.

  1. This was a really great read, I am very glad I came across your site.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mary Shaw on June 29, 2009 at 8:32 PM

      Thanks for making me smile – I’ll be sinking my teeth into another topic pretty soon, so come back again soon!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: