As it has for the past several months, the Six and Twenty Club met virtually Friday afternoon, May 21. Members answered roll call traditionally with quotations, followed by the reading of the previous meeting’s minutes. President Beverly Drapalik then introduced Mrs. Mary Driscoll as the afternoon’s program leader.
Mrs. Driscoll’s 2020 and 2021 club book is “The Flight Girls” by Noelle Salazar. It is a historical novel inspired by the courage, sacrifice and friendships of the brave Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II. Ms. Salazar graciously sent an email to the club, congratulating the ladies on their long-standing traditions and encouraging their continued success in reading.
Mrs. Driscoll continued her program about the daring life of Betty Skelton, “The First Lady of Firsts.” Born in 1926, Betty showed a keen interest in airplanes at a young age and piloted her first solo flight at the age of 12, even though she was legally under-age. By 16 she had acquired her pilot’s license.
Her heart’s desire was to join the WASP program, but she was too young. Instead, she turned to aerobatic stunt flying. She thrilled crowds as she preformed daredevil stunts in her little open-cockpit biplane, “Little Stinker,” now in the Smithsonian.
Betty wanted to become a commercial pilot but was rejected, because at that time women were not permitted to do so. Instead, she turned her need-for-speed to automobile racing.
Betty broke and set many, many speed records. She was the first to set a new woman’s land speed record behind the wheel of a jet powered car on Utah’s Salt Flats, with a speed of 351MPH. She was first to set a woman’s transcontinental speed record, driving from New York to Los Angeles in 56 hours and 58 minutes. She was the first woman to test drive an Indy 500 race car and the first woman invited by NASA to undergo training with the Mercury 7 astronauts.
With the upcoming Indy 500 race scheduled May 30, Mrs. Driscoll concluded with some fun facts about it.
Nine women have competed in the race, with Danica Patrick having the highest finish at third in 2009. Although Betty Skelton never had the opportunity to race in the Indy 500, she certainly paved the way for other daring women who also love to go fast.