Muriel Ferris, who started flying in 1929 and earned her pilot license in 1931, died of a stroke Nov. 7. She was 97.
Born in Syracuse, N.Y., she learned to fly on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, instructed by pioneer pilots Malcolm and Steve Hathaway. Local lore has it that she was the first woman to fly over water when she crossed Chesapeake Bay, although that distinction is questionable.
During World War II she served as a civilian ferry pilot. Like other experienced woman pilots of that era, she did not join the WAFS or WASP, but was a contract pilot flying military aircraft from their manufacturers to military bases in the United States and Canada.
A former executive secretary of the League of Women Voters, she became legislative assistant to Sen. Phil Hart in 1959, retiring from his staff in 1972.
Ferris was a student at Vassar College when she started flying. She graduated in 1933, earned a master’s degree in Spanish in 1934, did further postgraduate work at Columbia University, then returned to Vassar as a Spanish instructor. She left Vassar in 1937, when she moved to Washington, D.C. She served on numerous League of Women Voters boards over many years and was a U.S. delegate to the Inter-American Commission of Women.