National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division

Lee Ya-Ching Papers

Accession No. 2008-0009


NASM ref no. 9A06065

National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC

Jordan Ferraro

© Smithsonian Institution, 2009



Historical Note

Lee Ya-Ching was born in Canton, China in 1912. As an only child who lost her mother at a young age, Ya-Ching was raised by her father and grandmother. Under her father's guidance she learned many skills, including martial arts, some previously restricted to male children. Ya-Ching attended English schools in Hong Kong and Shanghai and at the age of 16 was sent to London to attend finishing school.

In 1929 at the age of 17, Ya-Ching went to Geneva, Switzerland. It is there that she took her first ride in an airplane and vowed to learn how to fly. She enrolled in Ecole Aero Club de Suisse and, in 1934, became the first woman to receive a pilot's license from the school. Determined to continue her education, Ya-Ching went to the United States and attended the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland, California in 1935. In November of that year she became the first woman licensed through the Boeing School. Upon completion of her training at the Boeing school Ya-Ching returned to China and began campaigning for a Chinese pilot's license, eventually obtaining the license in 1936. Seeing a need to train new pilots, Ya-Ching and some fellow pilots opened a civilian flying school in Shanghai in 1936.

When Japan invaded China in 1937, Ya-Ching volunteered to fly for her country, but was refused. Undeterred, she served her country by establishing hospitals. Leaving Shanghai for Hong Kong just before the city fell, she was finally given the opportunity to fly for China by piloting Red Cross planes ferrying supplies from Hong Kong to Canton. Realizing that China needed aid and supplies, Ya-Ching embarked on a Goodwill Tour of the United States and Canada in 1938. When the war prevented her return to China, Ya-Ching continued the tour expanding her appearances into South America.

Not much is known of Ya-Ching's life after the war. She returned to Hong Kong for a number of years. In the 1960's she returned to California, where she died in 1998 at the age of 86.




Scope and Content Note

This collection of materials listed in the finding aid is arranged into two series, Ms Lee's personal papers and her professional papers. Her personal papers consist mainly of correspondence and memorabilia from the 1930's through the 1960's. The primary focus of the professional papers is the years 1937 to 1945, the time which Ya-Ching was conducting her Good Will tour of the United States. The information in this section is in the form or correspondence, newspaper clippings, event pamphlets and flyers, publications, itineraries, and corporate papers. These items are arranged by material type then chronologically. No attempt was made to translate foreign language material in the collection.

There are various conservation concerns in this collection. Most of the papers were buried for a number of years prior to being donated. There are many photographs which have adhered to each other, many papers are torn with information missing and there is significant mildew damage to both paper and photographs. These items have been removed from the collection until they receive conservation treatment.




Time Line of Lee Ya-Ching

Time Line of Lee Ya-Ching

The following timeline covers key events in Ya-Ching's life, as well world events. Events involving Ya-Ching are shown in normal type; world events are shown in italics.

1909M. Vallon flies first plane in China
1911China ousts the 2000 year old Imperial System for a Republic
April 16, 1912Lee Ya-Ching is born in Canton, China
1916Ya-Ching's mother dies of tuberculosis
1917China enters World War 1 on the side of the Allies
1926Begins career as a movie actress
1928Leaves the film industry and goes to school in England
1929The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is ousted from China
1929Goes to Switzerland
Sept. 1931Japan seizes control of Manchuria
Nov. 1931CCP resurfaces in China and forms the Chinese Soviet Republic in Jiangxi Province
May 1932Amelia Earhart becomes first woman to solo across the Atlantic
1933Begins flying lessons at Geneva's Cointrin-Ecol d'Aviation
1934Receives her pilot's license from Ecole Aero Club de Suisse
1935Attends and receives license from the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland California
Falls out of an aerobatic plane, earning her membership in the Caterpillar Club
1936Receives her pilot's license from the Chinese Government
Opens a civilian flying school in Shanghai
1936First domestic airline established in China
1937Japan invades China
1937Helps establish hospitals in Shanghai
Earns Hong Kong commercial pilot's license
Flies for the Red Cross ferrying supplies from Hong Kong to Canton
1938Begins goodwill tour of United States and Canada
1939Appears in US film Disputed Passage with Dorothy Lamour
1940Flies "Estrella China" to Caribbean, Central and South America
Aids Ruth Nichols in raising money for Relief Wings
1941Begins working for United China Relief
12/07/1942Bombing of Pearl Harbor forces American entry into World War II
1944Begins Goodwill and Fund Raising tour of South America and Caribbean
August 1945Atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, followed by Japanese surrender and end of World War II
1946Returns to China and retires
1946Fighting between CCP and KMT (Nationalist party) resumes
1949KMT retreats to Taiwan
Mao Zedong establishes the People's Republic of China
1950Receives Hong Kong private pilot's license
1963Receives Hong Kong Special Purpose Pilot's license
1971Permanently moves to the United States
1997British rule ends in Hong Kong
January 28, 1998Dies at the age of 86



Series organization

SERIES I - Personal

  • Correspondence
  • Memorabilia
  • Other Information
  • Photographs

SERIES II - Professional

  • Correspondence
  • Organizational Papers
  • Photographs
  • Programs and Pamphlets
  • Publications/Press Releases
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Other Information

SERIES III - Oversized Materials




Series I

This series consists of the personal papers of Lee Ya-Ching. These items are arranged by material type, then chronologically.


Box  Folder 

1 1 Correspondence - With Peter Doo 1935-1941
2 Correspondence - Apartment 1945
3 Correspondence - With Children 1952-1964
4 Correspondence 1935-1965
5 Memorabilia - Post Cards
6 Memorabilia - Souvenirs - Brochures

2 1 Memorabilia - Souvenirs - Menus
2 Memorabilia - Souvenirs
3 Financial Receipts 1941-1962
4 Far East Training School Receipts 1953-1961
5 Photographs - Travels
6 Photographs - Miscellaneous
7 Official Documents 1933-1965 (Pilots licenses and government paperwork)
8 Manuscripts 1938-1939


Series II

This series contains information pertaining to Lee Ya-Ching's career as an aviatrix. These items are arranged by material type, then chronologically. Foreign Language material follows English material in all categories. No attempt has been made to translate these items.


Box  Folder 

3 1 Correspondence - Telegrams 1929-1936
2 Correspondence - Chinese Language Telegrams
3 Correspondence - Licensing 1935-1966
4 Correspondence - Introductions 1938-1946
5 Correspondence - Bishop Paul Yu-Pin 1939
6 Correspondence - Aircraft Companies 1939-1943
7 Correspondence - Legal 1939-1945
8 Correspondence - Chinese Government 1939-1955
9 Correspondence - Invitations 1939-1962

4 1 Correspondence - Relief Wings 1940-1941
2 Correspondence - American Bureau for Medical Aid to China 1940-1943
3 Correspondence - United China Relief Memos 1941-1943
4 Correspondence - United China Relief 1941-1945
5 Correspondence - By Location - South America 1938-1940
6 Correspondence - By Location - Houston, El Paso, San Antonio Texas & Chicago Illinois 1939
7 Correspondence - By Location - Salt Lake City, Utah 1939
8 Correspondence - By Location - San Francisco, California 1939
9 Correspondence - By Location - Vancouver, British Columbia 1939
10 Correspondence through 1938

5 1 Correspondence 1939
2 Correspondence 1940-1942
3 Correspondence 1943
4 Correspondence 1944-1962
5 Correspondence - Chinese Language
6 Correspondence - Chinese Language

6 1 Organizational Papers - China's Civilian Relief Fund 1939
2 Organizational Papers - Donor Lists 1939-1941 (1947)
3 Organizational Papers - Chinese Women's Relief Association 1941-1942
4 Organizational Papers - Relief Wings 1941-1944
5 Organizational Papers - United China Relief 1942-1945
6 Organizational Papers 1939-1944
7 Photographs - Flight Training 1933-1935
8 Photographs - Pan Am Clipper 1935
9 Photographs - Flying in China 1937
10 Photographs - Ford Exposition 1939
11 Photographs - Trips - Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn New York 1939
12 Photographs - Trips - Pittsburg 1939
13 Photographs - Trips - South America 1940- 1944
14 Photographs - Trips - Cleveland
15 Photographs - Trips - Vancouver
16 Photographs - Trips 1939- 1941

7 1 Photographs - Visit to Curtiss Wright
2 Photographs - Chinese Cadets
3 Photographs - Events
4 Photographs - Appearances and Interviews
5 Photographs - Photos by Earl Leaf 1940
6 Photographs - Photos by Arturo Jamez
7 Photographs - Photos by Carl Van Vechten
8 Photographs - Professional Photos
9 Photographs - Professional Photos
10 Photographs - Professional Photos
11 Photographs - Publicity - Paramount - with Dorothy Lamour 1939

8 1 Photographs - Planes
2 Photographs - Landscape
3 Photographs - Photos by David Scherman
4 Photographs - Photos by Dorsey Kinnamon, Wilmington, DE
5 Photographs - Relief Wings with Ruth Nichols
6 Photographs - with Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney
7 Photographs - miscellaneous
8 Photographs - miscellaneous
9 Photographs - Negatives
10 Events - National Concert and Artists Corporation 1945
11 Events 1939-1941

9 1 Events 1942-1945
2 Pamphlets - Jewish Refugee Organizations 1939-1942
3 Pamphlets - Relief Wings 1941
4 Pamphlets - United China Relief 1943
5 Publications - General China 1935-1940

10 1 Publications - General China 1941-1945
2 Publications - General Aviation 1938-1943
3 Publications - Indusco 1939-1943
4 Publications - Lee Ya-Ching 1941-1942
5 Publications - General History 1941-1945
6 Publications - Chinese Student Vol. III No. 3 (March 1940)
7 Publications - Contemporary China 1942-1945
8 Publications - The China Fortnightly Vol. III No. 2 (Aug. 1, 1942)
9 Publications - True Aviation Picture-Stories Vol. 1 No. 3 (June-July 1943)
10 Publications - Calling All Girls Vol. I No. 13 (Dec. 1943)
11 Publications - Time Magazine 1943-1945

11 1 Publications - Chinese Language (Untranslated)
2 Publications - Lee's Association Annual Magazine (Untranslated - Chinese)
3 Publications - Biliken Año XXV No 965 (April 1944) (Untranslated - Spanish)
4 Publications - Elite Año 19 No. 968 (April 1944) (Untranslated - Spanish)
5 Publications - ¡Aquí Está! Ao IX No. 868 (Sept. 1944) (Untranslated - Portuguese)
6 Publications - Selecta Ao VII No. 72 (Nov. 1944) (Untranslated - Portuguese)
7 Newspaper clippings 1937-1938
8 Newspaper clippings January - April 1939
9 Newspaper clippings May - December 1939

12 1 Newspaper clippings 1940
2 Newspaper clippings 1941
3 Newspaper clippings 1942
4 Newspaper clippings 1943
5 Newspaper clippings 1944-1945
6 Miscellaneous Newspaper clippings No Date

13 1 Newspaper clippings Foreign Language - Chinese (untranslated)
2 Newspaper clippings Foreign Language - Chinese (untranslated)
3 Newspaper clippings Foreign Language - Chinese (untranslated)
4 Newspaper clippings Foreign Language - Chinese (untranslated)

14 1 Newspaper clippings Foreign Language - Untranslated - Spanish
2 Newspaper clippings Foreign Language - Untranslated - Portuguese
3 Newspaper clippings Foreign Language - Untranslated - Dutch and French
4 Itineraries - Schedule for 1940 Trip
5 Itineraries 1939-1940
6 Press Releases 1937-1945

15 1 South American Airports and Landing Fields 1938-1940
2 Manuals 1939-1942
3 Interviews 1940-1943
4 Speeches 1940-1945
5 Tickets 1940-1945
6 Scripts 1942-1943
7 Biographical Information
8 Diaries

16 1 Miscellaneous articles on China
2 Miscellaneous articles
3 Business Cards
4 Orphaned Pages
5 Notes
6 Hilda Yen - biographical information
7 Miscellaneous
8 Stationary
9 Empty Envelopes


Series III

This series contains oversized material, including scrapbooks, large format magazines, photographs, aeronautical charts and full issues of newspapers.


Box  Folder 

17 1 Business Cards found in Address books
Five address books
Three boxes of Visiting cards

18 Two scrapbooks (newspaper clippings and photographs of Goodwill tour)

19 Air Babies By Elvy Kalep
Air News - The Picture Magazine of Aviation Vol. 2 No. 2 (Feb. 1942)
China Today Vol. 6 No. 5 (Feb 1940)
Flagship News Vol. III No. 10 (Oct .1941)
Fortune Vol. XXV No. 2 (Feb. 1942)
Life Vol. 6 No. 17 (April 24, 1939)
Life Vol. 12 No. 5 (Feb. 2, 1942)
National Air Races Official Directory and Log 1939
Town & Country Vol. 98 No. 4251 (Sept. 1943)
Trade Winds (Nov. 1941)
Vogue Vol. 102 No. 12 (Dec. 15, 1943)

20 1 Newspaper - The Curtiss Wrighter-er Vol. 3 No. 9 (Oct. 29, 1943)
2 Newspaper - The San Francisco Chronicle - August 4, 1940
3 Newspaper - The Sun August 14, 1945
4 Newspaper clippings 1941
5 Souvenirs 1938-1942
6 Empty Envelopes with notes

21 Scrapbook (newspaper clippings and photographs of Goodwill tour)

22 Oversized Photographs



Note: For conservation reasons the following material is housed separately from the collection. Access to these materials will be granted upon request and can be viewed with the assistance of an archivist. Charts of the United States are ordered alphabetically by location; route charts of Latin and South America are ordered by US Navy indexing number.


Drawer  Folder 

220 1 Aeronautical Chart - Albany (Upper K-18) March 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Albuquerque (Upper I-14) February 1937
Aeronautical Chart - Austin (Upper H-14) August 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Bellingham (Lower M-10) October 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Boise (Upper K-11) January 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Boston (West K-19) May 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Charlotte (Upper I-17) January 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Cheyenne (Lower K-13) March 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Cincinnati (Upper J-16) May 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Cleveland (Lower K-17) February 1935
 
2 Aeronautical Chart - Cleveland (Lower K-17) December 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Cleveland (Lower K-17)March 1940
Aeronautical Chart - Corpus Christi February 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Dallas (Lower K-14) September 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Del Rio November 1937
Aeronautical Chart - Des Moines (Lower K-15) May 1935
Aeronautical Chart - Detroit (Upper K-17) February 1937
Aeronautical Chart - Detroit (Upper K-17) April 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Douglas (Upper H-12) July 1937
Aeronautical Chart - El Paso (Upper H-13) April 1938
 
3 Aeronautical Chart - Elko (Lower K-11) March 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Huntington (Upper J-17) December 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Jacksonville (Upper H-17) December 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Kansas City (Upper J-15) May 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Klamath Falls (Upper K-10) January 1939
Aeronautical Chart - La Grande (Lower 3-11) April 1937
Aeronautical Chart - Lincoln
Aeronautical Chart - Los Angeles (Upper I-11) December 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Miami November 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Milwaukee (Upper K-16) February 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Mobile (Upper H-16) September 1938
 
4 Aeronautical Chart - Mt. Shasta (Lower K-10) August 1935
Aeronautical Chart - Mt. Shasta (Lower K-10) December 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Mt. Whitney (Lower J-11) November 1938
Aeronautical Chart - New Orleans October 1938
Aeronautical Chart - New York (Lower K-18) November 1934
Aeronautical Chart - New York (Lower K-18) June 1937
Aeronautical Chart - Norfolk (Upper I-18/Lower J-18) September 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Oklahoma City (Upper I-14) August 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Orlando (Lower H-17) January 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Phoenix (Lower I-12) July 1937
 
5 Aeronautical Chart - Pocatello (Upper K-12) June 1936
Aeronautical Chart - Pocatello (Upper K-12) April 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Portland (Lower L-10) June 1934
Aeronautical Chart - Portland (Lower L-10) January 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Roswell (Lower I-13) August 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Sacramento (Upper J-10) April 1037
Aeronautical Chart - Salt Lake City (Lower K-12) October 1938
Aeronautical Chart - San Antonio (Lower H-14) October 1938
Aeronautical Chart - San Antonio (Lower H-14) June 1939
Aeronautical Chart - San Diego (Lower I-11) April 1938
 
6 Aeronautical Chart - San Francisco (Lower J-10/Upper I-10) September 1935
Aeronautical Chart - San Francisco (Lower J-10/Upper I-10) February 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Savannah (Lower I-17) December 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Seattle (Upper L-10) May 1934
Aeronautical Chart - Seattle (Upper L-10) October 1937
Aeronautical Chart - Seattle (Upper L-10) March 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Spokane (Upper L-11) October 1937
Aeronautical Chart - Washington, DC (Upper J-18) August 1936
Aeronautical Chart - Washington, DC (Upper J-18) January 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Wichita (Lower J-14) April 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Winston-Salem (Lower J-17) December 1938

221 7 Aeronautical Chart - V-208
Aeronautical Chart - Miami, Florida - Isla de Pinos, Cuba (V-239) November 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Corpus Christi, Texas - Tampico, Mexico (V-245) April 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Tampico, Mexico - Puerto, Mexico (V-246) February 1936
Aeronautical Chart - Puerto, Mexico - Salina Crux, Mexico (V-246A) April 1939
Aeronautical Chart - Guadaloupe - Port of Spain, Trinidad (V-258) October 1937
Aeronautical Chart - St. Thomas - Guadaloupe (V-259) February 1936
Aeronautical Chart - Barbuda, West Indies - Puerto Rico (V-260) November 1938
 
8 Aeronautical Chart - Puerto Rico - Port Au Prince, Hati (V-261) October 1936
Aeronautical Chart - North coast of Hispaniola (V-262) October 1937
Aeronautical Chart - Media Luna Cay, Cuba - Cabi Haitien, Hati (V-264) June 1932
Aeronautical Chart - Batabano, Cuba - Media Luna Cay (V-266) April 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Guatemala City, Guatemala - Corinto, Nicaraqua (V-405) December 1935
Aeronautical Chart -Salina Cruz, Mexico - Guatemala City, Guatemala (V-406) November 1938
Aeronautical Chart - Ruta, Mexico - Tampico February 1933
Aeronautical Chart - No Information No. 08
Aeronautical Chart - No Information No. 09
 
9 National Geographic Map of Mexico, Central American and West Indies December 1939
Mapa de la Republica de Columbia 1931
Principal Cities Map of the United States
Trans-Canada Airlines Route Map 1940
Index of Aviation Maps and Charts January 1932
Index of Aviation Charts February 1937
North Coast of South America 1935