We Represented All Women- page 3 | History | Air & Space Magazine
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Vi Cowden during her service with the WASPs in the 1940s. (Courtesy Jonna Hoppes)

We Represented All Women

During World War II, WASPs proved that an airplane couldn’t tell the difference between a male and female pilot.

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The first step required an interview with Mrs. Hayward, one of Jackie’s Hollywood friends. I walked up to the front door of a home that could only be described as an elegant California mansion. 

“Oh my!” I thought as I rang the doorbell and listened to chimes reverberate through the spacious interior.

Mrs. Hayward asked me a lot of questions about my upbringing and experience as a pilot. She sized me up, seemingly satisfied with my answers so far, then looked me directly in the eye and asked, “What would you do to get into this program?”

I looked around her enormous living room with its beautiful furniture and soaring windows.

“If you asked me to scrub your house with a toothbrush,” I said, re-establishing eye contact, “I would do it.”

I reported to Long Beach for my physical.

“You’re in excellent health. Twenty-twenty vision with perfect depth perception,” the doctor reported. “But I can’t pass you.”

“Why not?” I asked, my heart pounding against my ribs in an attempt to escape.

“The minimum weight for a WASP is 100 pounds.” He consulted his notes. “You weigh 92.”

“Give me a week!” I pleaded. With my German-Russian heritage, I was certain I could put on eight extra pounds in a week’s time. My sister, an excellent cook, joined my crusade with shared determination. I ate everything in sight, but on the morning of my weigh-in I came up just a tad short.

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