first womans airrace

At the dawn of the Golden Age of Aviation, it was unheard of that women pilots to compete with men pilots. A breakthrough came in 1929 with the first National Women’s Air Derby. A publicity project of the National Exchange Club, the race was patterned after the men’s transcontinental air races.  Twenty women entered the Santa Monica, CA, to Cleveland, OH, “Powder Puff Derby,” including Amelia Earhart and Pancho Barnes.


After the race, a small group of racers met to discuss forming an organization for women pilots. All 117 licensed women pilots in the United States were contacted, and on November 2, 1929, 26 of them met at Curtiss Airport, Long Island, NY. They quickly decided the purpose of the club, “good fellowship, jobs and a central office and files on women in aviation,” and its eligibility requirements, “open to any woman with a pilot’s license.” Selecting a name was a different matter. Noisy Birdwomen and The Climbing Vines, someone suggested that the name reflect the number of charter members. That number turned out to be 99!  It wasn’t until 1931 that Amelia Earhart became the first elected President.


Today, The 99s has chapters in each of the 50 United States. Non-U.S. Chapters and Sections are located in Canada, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Brazil, Great Britain, the Caribbean, Japan, Finland, Germany, India, Israel, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, and Russia. Members are airline pilots, charter and corporate pilots, private pilots, student pilots, flight instructors, military pilots, balloon pilots, astronauts, helicopter pilots, and more. The 99s sponsors the Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarship program, networking forums, a career mentoring program, and a members-only email network. We celebrate our heritage through our two museums, the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison, Kansas, and The 99s Museum of Women Pilots at its headquarters in Oklahoma City.



amelia sitting
Compass Rose Painting