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260 Hazel Jane Raines (1916–1956) Georgia’s First Woman Pilot and Her “Band of Sisters” during World War II Paul Stephen Hudson    Enshrined in 1989 with a group of six other pilots inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia, Hazel Jane Raines is hailed as “Georgia’s First Lady of Flight.” Indeed, Hazel Raines was the first woman in Georgia to earn a pilot’s license, doing so in Macon in 1938. That year she was the first woman in the state to pilot solo, and in 1939 she was the first Georgia woman to earn a private pilot’s license. In 1940 Raines was the first woman aviator to make a solo flight of significant distance in Georgia, from Macon to Athens. Raines’s greatest achievements, however, were during World War II. She flew military aircraft overseas in the first cohort of twenty-five women pilots in the British ata (Air Transport Auxiliary). Later, she was a leader among the 1,074 aviators in the United States wasp (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) on the home front in America. Thus, the air service career of Hazel Raines can be interpreted in the broad historical context of American women breaking new ground during the World War II era. More than “Georgia’s First Lady of Flight,” Raines should be viewed as one of the best American women pilots of the 1940s wartime era. She was among the first American women aviators who worked in transport and training situations as close to combat as legal regulations allowed. As such, she was part of a unique and ambitious group of women obliged to deal with multiple cultural and official forces—including the U.S. Army Air Force, military pilots , the media, and Congress—that were skeptical of using women in wartime aviation. Hazel Jane Raines 261 There was little indication in Hazel Raines’s early life that she would become an outstanding pilot. Born on April 21, 1916, in Waynesboro, Georgia, Hazel was sickly as a child, the result of a heart condition she had all her life. Nevertheless, she had a strong will and determination, and she pursued a high level of education , graduating in the class of 1936 from the distinguished Wesleyan College, a women’s institution in Macon, Georgia. Raines studied music in the school’s conservatory. Hazel’s schooling may have further imbued her with a sense of equality and self-confidence. To advocates of higher education for women, nothing was worse than an education that confined students to subjects or vocations based on gender stereotypes, and many young women found college to be a liberating experience that opened up new possibilities for independence. The youngest of three girls, Hazel was to be different from her older sisters Frankie and Martha, who did not attend Wesleyan and grew up to marry and have children. It was soon after graduation from college that Raines dramatically broke from the expectations of traditional southern womanhood and entered what had been a man’s world of aviation in Georgia. According to family stories, it was on a dare that she decided to take flying lessons at tiny Herbert Smart Field in Macon. On hot summer days at the airfield, Raines blended in well, typically wearing a short-sleeved shirt, slacks, and brown leather flying boots. It appears that Raines gained respect from pilots who liked her passion for flying and, seeing her talent for aviation, encouraged her in a mentoring spirit.    The preeminent role model for American women pilots of Raines’s 1930s generation was the famous aviatrix (then a contemporary term for a female aviator) Amelia Earhart. In 1929 Earhart had helped organize the first support group for American women in aviation, of which she became president. She named the informal group the Ninety-Nines because of its number of charter members determined “to discuss the prospects for women’s pilots.” She made a solo flight over the Pacific from Honolulu to Oakland, California, in 1935. That same year in Georgia there was a highly publicized celebration, which suggested that at least some in the state had become more progressive in recognizing women’s achievement. In Atlanta, Oglethorpe University president Thornwell Jacobs proclaimed 1935—the year before Hazel Raines graduated from Wesleyan—as the “Year of the Woman.” He invited ten distinguished women to receive honorary doctorates at May commencement to recognize their careers in “public advancement.” All had college...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780820347004
Related ISBN
9780820337845
MARC Record
OCLC
883820174
Pages
408
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-16
Language
English
Open Access
No
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