Friday, September 06, 2013

Sophie Threatens to Quit Flying 'Jeered at Behind my Back'

Sophie with women athletes at London Aero Club
In late 1927, Sophie threatened to quit flying. It had been a tumultuous year from her. With her marriage over, there was a new urgency to her efforts to earn a living and by June, she had become the first woman pilot  in Britain and Ireland to qualify for a commercial licence.
Her forthright personality however didn't appeal to everyone and she was dubbed "Lady Hell-of-a-Din"  - a play on her surname. With little work for men or women in the post-war years, many men resented women who sought to earn their own living.
Sophie did her bit for women's rights - she supported the Equal Political Rights demonstration  at London's Hyde Park  on July 2,  flying overhead and later giving a speech. She  also supported the National Council for Women and continued her involvement with the FSFI (international women's sport federation).
Here is how her decision to retire was reported in the Daily Express of Wednesday October 20: 

Mrs Eliott Lynn the famous pioneer airwoman has announced her intention to give up flying as a protest against the jealousy which she says had made her life intolerable.
"It is too painful to a person who has any sensitivities to be subjected to continual bickering and leg-pulling," she said.
Mrs Eliott Lynn attributes all her troubles to prejudice against women adopting aviation as a career.
"I am terribly upset that I should have to give up flying, but I have been driven into it as the only means by which I can call attention to the manner in which women are boycotted.
"For months I have had to contend with a campaign of veiled innuendo and open maliciousness  which has made my life miserable. I have been jeered at behind my back and ridiculed to my face. .Sometimes the spiteful leg-pulling and chaff have become so bad that I could hardly bring myself to go to the aerodrome. .
"It is my one hope that my decision to give up flying will make things easier for other women who take up aviation. The opposition I have found myself up against has been heart-breaking."
"I have been flying for just a year and I have been in the air for 330 hours and covered 40,000 miles.
"Twice this summer, I was rejected permission to enter races. Then I offered a silver cup to be presented to the best pupil of the year, but this was declined. It was afterwards accepted by another club..
"Frankly, I had hoped to make my living out of aviation. I have spent £2,000 on it and I own two airplanes - a Baby Moth, a dear little thing like a runabout, and a fast, fighting Scout.
"I have proved aviation can be made a successful career  for women by earning about £700 by instructing  pupils and by giving exhibition flights. but every cheque I have and I have paid for bitterly. Now I have been refused permission to act as an instructress even in a voluntary capacity because it is said that I am taking the bread out of the mouths of men pilots.
"Today I had a telephone conversation with an aviation official who finally said that he wanted to have nothing more to do with me. That was the last straw."
Mrs Eliott Lynn  had agreed to give an exhibition flight before the Dominion Premiers at Croydon on Saturday but although she  had cancelled this engagement, was persuaded by an Air Ministry official to revoke her decision.
Commander Perrin, the secretary of the Royal Aero Club,  said he could not believe that she seriously contemplated giving up flying.
"I must say that Mrs Lynn is a very fine pilot, who knows as much if not more about an airplane as do many men."
That winter she headed for East Africa and by the following May, was back in England winning the ladies' race at Bournemouth - and as busy as ever.

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