FLY GIRLS: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History

September 20th - Falmouth Museums on the Green

From Falmouth Museums on the Green:

Writing because NYT Bestselling Author Keith O’Brien will be in town on Thursday, September 20 to speak at Falmouth Museums on the Green. His book FLY GIRLS: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History is getting accolades everywhere. FLY GIRLS is the true story of women willing to risk everything, even their lives, to do the thing they loved. These female fliers of the ‘20s and ‘30s, shattered the original glass ceiling, battled injustices which feel all too timely today, and ultimately prevailed.

SPOILER ALERT: I had no idea that Amelia Earhart wasn’t even close to the best female flyer of her time. And until I read this book, I knew nothing of the challenges that women faced to getting in the air. In 1934 a major airline hired the first woman, but the pilots’ union refused to accept her and aviation officials wouldn’t let her fly passengers in bad weather. And it wasn’t until 1973 before a major airline again hired a woman to be a pilot! Today women represent only seven percent of all pilots in the U.S.

Would love to put you in touch with Keith O’Brien if you wanted to write a piece – or I have a canned Q&A and some press materials I can send if that would be helpful. Happy to speed a copy of the book as well. Let me know if this might work!

All the best, Taryn


  • FLY GIRLS tells of 5 remarkable women who came from all classes and all over the country:
    • Florence Klingensmith, a high school dropout who worked for a dry cleaner in Fargo, ND
    • Ruth Elder, an Alabama divorcee;
    • Amelia Earhart, the most famous, but not necessarily the most skilled;
    • Ruth Nichols, society girl from Rye, NY, who chafed at the constraints of her blue blood family’s expectations;
    • And Bentonville-born and raised Louise Thaden, the mother of two young kids who got her start selling coal
  • Forget about what you know about today’s air shows—air racing in the 1920s and 30s was a real sport, with real stakes. Winners and losers competed for prize money worth millions today. These races would draw 500,000 people in a single weekend—sometimes more than 100,000 people in a single day—making them one of the most popular sports in America. And, also, one of the most dangerous. Inevitably, pilots competing would crash their single-propeller, open-cockpit planes, plowing them into the ground at 200 mph in clear view of the fans, dying in mangled planes and horrific fires.
  • These air races, many men believed, were no place for a woman. In the late 1920s, there were less than a dozen women with a pilot’s license in America. Out of 30 million women of voting age, not even a dozen.
  • A small cadre of female fliers – the FLY GIRLS of the book’s title – set out to change the record. First they broke into the men-only race, but then they sought to beat the world’s best male pilots in the most prestigious and grueling air show, the Bendix Trophy Race. In 1936 Louise Thaden would do just that, beating the closest man by 50 minutes, and beating Amelia Earhart by two hours.


A Time Magazine Best Book for Summer

A Costco “Pennie’s Pick”

Named a “Must Read” by Bustle, BookPage, Garden & Gun, Parade

“Exhilarating...vibrant...O’Brien’s prose reverberates with fiery crashes, then stings with the tragedy of lives lost in the cockpit and sometimes, equally heartbreaking, on the ground.”—New York Times Book Review
“Keith O’Brien has brought these women—mostly long-hidden and forgotten—back into the light where they belong. And he’s done it with grace, sensitivity and a cinematic eye for detail that makes "Fly Girls" both exhilarating and heartbreaking.” —USA Today
“Mr. O’Brien, a former reporter for the Boston Globe working in the tradition of ‘Hidden Figures’ and ‘The Girls of Atomic City,’ has recovered a fascinating chapter not just in feminism and aviation but in 20th-century American history.” —Wall Street Journal

“A riveting account that puts us in the cockpit with Amelia Earhart and other brave women who took to the skies in the unreliable flying machines of the ’20s and ’30s.” —People Magazine
“Let’s call it the Hidden Figures rule: If there’s a part of the past you thought was exclusively male, you’re probably wrong. Case in point are these stories of Amelia Earhart and other female pilots who fought to fly.” —Time welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on