How much horsepower should a woman be allowed to have? This was a serious question in 1929 when 20 female pilots made history by entering a transcontinental air race from Santa Monica, Calif., to Cleveland, Ohio.
This was the first time women were allowed to compete in the air, albeit with the restriction that their airplanes could not exceed the horsepower deemed “appropriate” for a woman. Many of these first racers went on to become household names, such as Amelia Earhart, Bobbi Trout and Pancho Barnes. Now, 76 years later, the Women’s Air Race Classic race begins and ends at Purdue University in Indiana, which seems appropriate since Earhart flew and taught at Purdue, and the university’s library houses one of the most comprehensive collections of her materials in the world.
The race begins June 21, with more than 50 planes taking off 30 seconds apart. The 2,117-nm course includes stops in LaCrosse, Wis.; Beatrice, Neb.; Bartlesville, Okla.; Shreveport, La.; Walnut Ridge, Ark.; Tullahoma, Tenn.; and Athens, Ohio. Teams are judged on flying ability, with the top 10 teams receiving cash prizes at an awards gala June 26.