women in aviation and space history

Ruth Law

Ruth Law
NASM-2009-22214
National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Ruth Law

Early Flight (107)

Ruth Law enjoyed one of the longest and most colorful careers of early female aviators. She was so successful that, in 1917, she earned as much as $9,000 a week for exhibition flights. Law enrolled in the Burgess Flying School in June 1912, made her first flight on July 5, and soloed on August 12. She bought her first aircraft from Orville Wright in 1912 in which she became the first woman to fly at night. Later she purchased a Curtiss Pusher. In 1916, Law set three records on a flight from Chicago to New York, and she had the honor of carrying the first official air mail to the Philippine Islands in 1919. In 1917, she was the first woman authorized to wear a military uniform, but she was denied permission to fly in combat. Instead, she raised money for the Red Cross and Liberty Loan drives with exhibition flights. After the war, she formed "Ruth Law's Flying Circus," a three-plane troupe that amazed spectators at state and county fairs by racing against cars, flying through fireworks, and setting altitude and distance records. One morning in 1922, however, Law read the announcement of her retirement in the newspaper — her husband, Charles Oliver, could no longer bear his wife's hazardous occupation and simply put an end to her flying career.

(information compiled by D. Cochrane and P. Ramirez)