January 22nd 2020
Female aviators were the topic of an RTE Nationwide programme.
Interviewer Anne Marie McAleese:
"Two hard back volumes, what an achievement, it's fantastic. It will have a very significant place in the history of aviation particularly as far as Irish women are concerned."
Those magnificent women in their flying machines are the subject, the Irish female pioneer pilots of the 1920s and 1930s. Sixteen are featured, with detailed biographies told against the backdrop of Irish economic, social and political life. Some were from very wealthy backgrounds, others were not. They shared a love of flying, a sense of adventure and boundless courage. Antrim-born Lilian Bland was the first woman to design, build and fly her own aircraft. Limerick native Sophie Pierce won worldwide acclaim for being the first woman to fly solo from Cape Town to London. Monaghan’s Mary Westenra became the first woman to fly from London down the east side of Africa and return by the west side. Michael Traynor’s lavishly illustrated volumes tell a fascinating story. – Brian Maye Irish Times Link
The author with world famous aviator, Polly Vacher
Petticoat Pilots - Biographies and Achievements of Irish Female Aviators 1909 – 1939 by Michael Traynor
It is unusual to start a book review with some statistics but as these are so impressive it is difficult to resist the urge. These two sumptuously produced, large format (the US equivalent of A4 size), hardback volumes weigh in at a hefty 7 lbs 4 oz (3.3 kg). With a gestation period of seven years, they may be described, with a degree of accuracy, as the author’s baby. They encompass a total of 621 pages and include no less than 773 magnificent, diligently researched and well-chosen illustrations – photos, maps and contemporary adverts.
Yet all of this would be much less valuable were it not for the highly detailed and readable text, the product of much deep and indefatigable research by Michael, together with superb editing, design and layout by Alicia McAulay. The final result is a publication that is far more than simply the biographies of 15 intrepid young women – highly interesting though they are. The difference is that Michael sets these in the context of their times, their family backgrounds and ancestry, so producing a scholarly work of Irish Social History. I can only but echo the endorsement of Michael D Higgins, the President of the Republic of Ireland, ‘a unique collector’s treasure trove, not just for historians of Irish aviation but for all those Irishwomen and Irish men at home and around the world, who wish to learn and celebrate the undeniably world-class, but too-often unsung, achievements of the women whose stories are told here. He adds, ‘It is undoubtedly the ultimate reference source on the topic of women’s aviation history in Ireland and will surely become recognised as a foremost title on the subject.’ Moreover, at the recent book launch in the Northern Ireland War Memorial in Belfast, the guest of honour, the distinguished journalist and broadcaster, Dr Wendy Austin MBE, was full of praise for the many terrific anecdotes collected by Michael and the word picture he created of a bygone era. I would add that the illustrations really enhance the text as do the family trees at the start of each chapter, which contribute to the books’ historical substance. My only quibble would be - the books stop in 1939 and I would hope that Michael might possibly consider extending his research onwards towards the Irish women who followed in the footsteps of these pioneers into commercial, SAR and military flying.
Highly recommended and available from the author at email@example.com
Ireland's History Magazine
"In two large, handsome, hardback volumes totalling around 600 pages, including almost 800 images, Traynor tells the stories of twelve trail-blazing women. He spent eight years researching the lives of these women - and I mean lives, because he goes far beyond the narrow focus of aviation to give a complete picture of the societies they came from and the times they lived in. With an introduction by no less than the president, Michael D. Higgins, the whole project is quite remarkable".
UK aviation magazine supporting the Heart of Aviation Heritage.
"The definitive account of a topic that has rarely been tackled. The very act of assembling all this material is a mighty achievement, but to accompany it with such readable and well-researched text marks these books as a priority read. The depth, colour and quality of these publications will appeal to both enthusiasts and the more casual reader."
Magazine of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
"Illustrated throughout with numerous contemporary photographs, an informative compilation of detailed biographical profiles of twelve Irish female aviators. It includes the major role these women played in the development of aviation in Ireland. Includes a Foreword by Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland."
Magazine of the deHavilland Moth Club.
"The quality of the reproduction of the photographs and artwork is outstanding and the layout on quality paper does justified credit to the huge effort. It is rare for a work of such depth and quality which covers a subject of primary interest to [Moth] Club members and readers of this magazine, to be published anywhere, and credit is due to the author for choosing the subject and applying his talents with such tenacity over so many years to produce two volumes of detailed history worthy of any discriminating bookcase. Very highly recommended."