Katherine Wright, (August 19, 1874 – March 3, 1929; Leo/Hera) was a woman who sacrificed her life for others. It wasn’t until the last few years of her life that she was finally able to have true love, her own life and this was at the cost of her brother abandoning her. Her story is one of dedication to the two famous Wright brothers, Orville and Wilber but also to their lesser known father Bishop Milton Wright.
A graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio, she began her work as a teacher in the classroom. Constantly having positions kept from her, as it appeared her future destiny was being prepared for her. At the same time, her brothers were creating their airplane empire, trying to prove they could make a plane fly and then trying to prove to others it did.
Visiting the Cleveland Art Museum with my boyfriend, this past September, was a real treat. Not only was it, sadly, very empty but I also learned about a new Ohio woman. Since there were small numbers, we had the luxury of touring the museum like an after hours wealthy dignitary might do, such as a Louis Tiffany in his time. Without a crowd, we did not have to rush viewing the pieces, reading the descriptions and standing and gazing as long as we wished. My boyfriend was interested in viewing the Tiffany’s collection, that I had not noticed since it was behind us walking in. To my surprise, I quickly learned that there was a woman, from Tallmadge, Ohio, who was the actual designer and creator of Tiffany lamps and eventually the jewelry as well. I found a historical fiction book about her, in the museum store, called “Noon at Tiffany’s,” by Echo Heron. I set out to read about Clara Driscoll – the real Tiffany’s, upon my return.
It began with the dream of a little girl taking her first airplane ride. In 1932, in Newark, Ohio, that little girl understood what her destiny held, even if not the details. “I will fly around the world.”
In grade school, she studied the atlases of the world and found two more dreams for her life: to ride a camel in the Sahara and to ride an elephant.In college, she was the only female in a class of 100 studying aeronautical engineering.
As the years passed, she pursued her dreams as best she could, but Jerrie Fredritz was from a small town, and a girl in the 1940s. When you’re a girl, you drop out of college – if you were lucky enough to start college – to get married. Two years later, you give birth because this is what you do.
The first time I heard these things, I was confused. My grandmother didn’t strike me as the kind of woman who would have done anything conventional and certainly didn’t seem like the sort of woman who’d drop out of college for a man, even if it was the 40s. Of course, that’s because I knew her not as Jerrie (Fredritz) Mock, small town girl from Ohio, but as Grandma Jerrie, the first woman to fly around the world.
To me, she had always been the strong, tiny woman who’d piloted her way around the globe in a single-engine Cessna 180 in 1964. To me, she had always been the storyteller with adventures of engine troubles and sandstorms and the amusing fascination with the King’s red silk pajamas in Morocco.
This woman who stood five-feet-and-no-inches-tall was the author, pilot, entrepreneur, explorer, and photographer I had always known. Yet my teachers knew nothing about her when our aviation history units came up.
“Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly around the world.”
My little hand shot up. “No, she didn’t.”
“I beg your pardon?” My fifth grade teacher expected anyone in her class to speak against her on any issue, except me.
“My grandma was the first, not Amelia. I can show you.”
The next day, I brought in newspaper clippings, a copy of my grandmother’s book, Three-Eight-Charlie, and a photo of her and Charlie, the little Cessna who took her around the world. I brought Jerrie in for show-and-tell a few weeks later.
She left from Columbus, Ohio, on March 19, 1964, heading to Bermuda for her first stopover on the way. She piloted her way from the mainland, over the ocean for her first time and into the Bermuda Triangle that day, after least hearing from the tower, “Well, I guess that’s the last we’ll hear of her!”
Jerrie made it, though, and spent a week grounded in Bermuda thanks to foul weather over the Atlantic. My grandfather wasn’t too happy with her and kept urging her to take risks. After all, the sponsors were counting on her beating out the other woman – Joan Merriam Smith – in the race around the world.
Jerrie didn’t care about the race. In fact, she would have far preferred there were no sanctions and officials involved at all. She was taking this adventure to see the world, not make headlines or earn herself a title.
From Bermuda, she headed to Santa Maria in the Azores. Her second leg of the trip almost became her last as ice built up on the wings and the Santa Maria tower took ages to give clearance to adjust her flight level, after which he told her, “Don’t hit the mountains.”
“I might be awfully dumb,” Jerrie thought, “but I wasn’t going to fly into the mountains intentionally. Who’d want to do that?”
While in Santa Maria, she visited the church where Christopher Columbus and his shipmates once attended. The colonial feel of the island fascinated her – with pastoral views and pack animals instead of cars. “Almost as Alice dropped into Wonderland, I stepped into the past. The people, their clothing, their tools, their houses, all belonged in a history book.”
From the Azores, Jerrie headed to one of the places I grew up hearing the most about in all of her journeys: Casablanca. Upon her arrival, she and those who greeted her celebrated with French champagne and dinner out at a Moroccan restaurant that had once been an officer’s club before the French were asked to leave. “Outside, it was a drab building on an almost-deserted street. No neon signs or bright lights. No tourist would ever have found it. Step inside, and the Arabian Nights come to mind.”
After dinner, Jerrie and her hosts joined friends for tea. They all spoke French but somehow managed to explain to Jerrie what the beautiful building across the way was. The King’s Palace. They went to the palace grounds – the friends had received special permission to bring her by since more friends lived on the grounds. The friend was an Advisor to the King. The grounds were filled with exquisite flowers and stunning buildings.
She took a lot of pictures at the palace in Morocco – which were also later confiscated by the American government upon her return and never seen by the family. These pictures, and those of her riding a camel in Egypt fulfilling that second lifelong dream are the only pictures of which she spoke to me.
Jerrie fought sandstorms flying across Egypt and landed at a secret military base near Cairo. She gawked at the pyramids from the back of a camel and dined on delicious local foods.
There was trouble over the South China Sea when dirt blown into the engine during the sandstorms crept out and tried to cause issues, and as she flew over Wake Island, she thought she was being shot down for exiting safe air space. I could share dozens – maybe hundreds – of stories from her 21 stops over those 21 ½ days around the world.
On April 17, 1964, she landed at Port Columbus in Ohio, officially making her the first woman to fly around the world. Joan Merriam Smith landed some 26 days later.
Jerrie received keys to cities, many awards, including a presidential medal which she received from Lyndon B. Johnson on May, 4, 1964 on her daughter’s fourth birthday, and the Louis Bleriot medal from the FAI. I have a few of these medals and awards on my walls for now as we wait out the pandemic. Once it’s safe to travel again, I’ll be bringing them with me on lectures and presentations to share her incredible achievements with the world.
Jerrie continued her flying career in other ways after her plane, Charlie, was purchased by the Smithsonian Institute, where he hangs to this day. She was gifted a Cessna P206, which she loved flying for a time – but the taxes because too overwhelming for her to keep the plane.
She made her final flight as a pilot in October 1969, when she flew that plane to Papua New Guinea, where the plane was donated to the Flying Padres, a missionary group of the Sacred Hearts. On the flight, she took more world records for longest no-stop flight and others, though these titles have all passed on to others since.
Last year Jerrie was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame – and this medal is perhaps the one I am most proud of and honored by. In her stead, I attended the ceremony and gave a brief speech on her impact on women the world over. I think, perhaps, I am most proud of this achievement because not only did she not set out to make a name for herself, but in simply following her dreams, she impacted women I’ve been meeting my entire life, most of whom never themselves met her.
Pilot friends serving as missionaries around the globe know her name. Girls who did school projects on her or dressed up as her for presentations on local heroes have set their eyes on loftier goals because Jerrie did accomplished her own dreams. These women have been impacted because of my grandmother’s bravery and adventurous spirit that defied the times. The media may have dubbed her ‘the flying housewife,’ but she showed the world what a woman could do.
To learn more about Jerrie and her amazing accomplishments, please contact Rita via her website and be on the lookout for updates on Rita’s full-cast audio adaptation of The Flying Housewife, A True Story, coming soon!
Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Eliza Archard Connor, 1838-1912
By Cora B. Arney, Public History Consultant, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Women’s Rights Journalist
“Author, Traveler, Scholar.” These are the terms etched into a New Richmond, Ohio headstone to describe 19th century journalist, Eliza Archard Conner. Archard was born in 1838 in the abolitionist town of New Richmond, Ohio and died in 1912 in New York City. She was tough, highly opinionated, and a radical in her time. She seized any opportunity to prove herself as a prolific journalist, and to influence other women to live up to their full potential. These qualities were no doubt seeded by spending her formative years surrounded by people who resolutely stood up for equality. Conner’s educational background, brief teaching career, and passion as a journalist led her to develop her belief that women deserved the same opportunities as men.
Hello fellow readers. I wanted to make you aware of this meeting October 1-3 and let you know that if you sign up, you will hear Ohio Women’s History Project as one of the first presentations on October 1st from 9am – 10am.
The title of the presentation will be Transformed Women Who Brought Us to Where we are Today. There will be several other presentations and a guest speaker during these three days. I hope you will be able to attend and while it is virtual, you will be able to ask questions via Chat that I will be able to answer at the end. I look forward to seeing you!!
Sojourner Truth was born Isabella “Belle” Baumfree sometime in 1797 in Swartekill, NY (died 11/26/1883 at 86). She was an abolitionist, an author and a human rights activist. She escaped slavery in 1826 with her infant daughter. She was the first black woman to get her son back in court two years later. Ms. Truth helped bring black troops to the Union for the Civil War and she also helped freed blacks to receive land grants. In the latter she was unsuccessful. She also narrated several pieces that have been published, her talk in Akron was not want of them. Today there are quite a number of memorials in her name around the country.
We’re honored to let you know that Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story has won 2nd place in the short documentary category of the International Indie Gathering! (http://www.theindiegathering.com/home.html) The film will also be screened at the upcoming festival. Details will be announced as soon as they are received, so check in often. We thank the festival committee for helping us share Emma’s story!
Ms. Helen Beatrice Jenkins was born July 28, 1894, in Columbus, Ohio, the 12th of 13 children of Sallie and William George (Billy) Jenkins. Helen’s father was born into slavery in 1849. After the end of the civil war and slavery, William Jenkins moved to Jamestown, Ohio where he met and married Sallie.
Ms. Jenkins grew up on Spring Street, in an area that is presently part of Martin Luther King Drive. Helen graduated from the Columbus Normal School, in the top five percent of her class; and continued her education at Ohio State and Capital Universities. Discriminatory practices within the public educational system caused a delay of approximately two years before Davis’ appointment to a teaching position in the
Columbus Public Schools in 1918. She was among the first Black teachers, in the first integrated Columbus Public School, Spring Street Elementary. Helen B. Jenkins Davis’ teaching career spanned over 37 years; and she retired in 1954.
In January of 1932, Helen married Raymond Davis, a Physical Therapist. They built one of the early homes in the Lucy Depp addition, north of O’Shaughnessy Dam, on land that belonged to the freed slave Abraham Depp for over one hundred years. Their marriage ended in divorce after twenty-three years.
In 1976, Mrs. Davis was a star witness who testified in Judge Robert Duncan’s Federal District Court, in a discrimination lawsuit filed against the Columbus Public Schools. She spoke of the inequality of teacher assignments and the unequal distribution of books and supplies in predominantly Black Columbus schools.
Mrs. Davis was an extremely well traveled woman who believed in the possibilities of education and exposure. Helen regularly shared memories and her travels through photos, books and stories. A perseverant and spiritually uplifting woman, who appreciated and recognized the hard work of others, Helen was active member of the
Second Baptist Church, until her death. She was also responsible for organizing senior citizens to help stuff more than two thousand envelopes supporting a Columbus School levy.
Mrs. Davis is remembered for her love of children, keen sense of competition, strict discipline, and delightful sense of humor. There are those who knew her as their sphere of influence, encouraging them to complete their education and contribute to that making lives worthwhile. Helen Jenkins Davis encouraged young people to “Strive for Super
Mrs. Davis lived an extremely healthy lifestyle, eating healthy, growing many of her own vegetables and entering them into Ohio State Fair competition, and studying the benefits of vitamins and herbs. Helen Beatrice Jenkins Davis’ healthy living served her well, as she
lived to be 93 years old. Mrs. Davis died on June 28, 1987.
Gwendolyn C. Williams-Wade, B.Ed., M.Ed.
Project: Education Access
For more information about the scholarship or the organization contact Gwendolyn here.
Hello fellow women’s history lovers. I just opened up a store on Etsy where you can buy these wonderful history t-shirts for yourself, your friends and family. The shop is under OhioWomensHistory or https://www.etsy.com/shop/OhioWomensHistory
This is my first time working with Etsy so I hope it will be a successful adventure. Thank you in advance for being a part of the Ohio Women’s History Project by following us here and/or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You box won’t be bombarded with emails so don’t worry about that!!
Also, Thursday, October 1st, 2020; 9 am to 10 am, I will be speaking about Ohio Women at the Ohio History Alliance Conference virtually. The title of my presentation will be “Transformative Women Who Brought Us to Where We Are Today” and the Session Description: Join the Ohio Women’s History Project to learn to learn about women who have transformed Ohio and the county. We will highlight women’s contributions beyond the vote while recognizing the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage. If you love history you might like to be a part of this amazing conference!
Are we having fun yet? No, well, there are lots of reasons why we can be strong and tough right now. We have weathered many storms in the past and we will do the same right now. We have been through tornadoes/Xenia, blizzards/Columbus (other parts of Ohio I assume, I was a teen then). We have gone through concert crashing for the Who in Cincinnati. We have been through a terrible shooting at Kent State University. We have lost two policemen in Westerville a few years ago and I am sure that is not the first time policemen have been killed in action in Ohio. We got through all of this because we are Ohio Strong and we are tough Mid-western people who have ancestors from Europe, who were farmers, who are Appalachians from down south, we are strong spiritual people, we are from so many different backgrounds now and so we are a combination of strength, resilience, perseverance. We will look back on this virus very soon as nothing but a memory. We will talk about how we coped, we will show photos of empty shelves and we will tell people what we did during this very uncomfortable and annoying time.
I have been talking to people in my family to check-in – by phone (landline) and see how they are doing. Everyone is coping very well. Most of my family and friends are Hungarian and they have already migrated here after the revolution of 1956 or later. They have crossed borders in the coldest months of the year. They have left behind families and brought with them whatever they could carry to the U.S. I have a family member who took political asylum before the wall came down and had to live in Germany for a year before being admitted in the U.S. I have friends who came here more recently. Being raised in this mindset makes me one tough cookie. “Don’t vorry about us, ve are fine,” they will say to me and this is why I call them because it reminds me to stay strong.
Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference. Winston Churchill
My cousin Maria/Marika, is at Children’s managing a unit in the infectious disease area. She tells me she is being like Churchill right now, commanding her troops and keeping them informed as well as empowering them to be tough and stand strong. I am a psychotherapist for a living. I am channeling Dr. Viktor Frankl who was a psychologist that survived Auschwitz. Dr. Frankl went on to write a great many books about being resilient in times of struggle and unrest. Who better than he could share the answers to this? I am teaching my clients to focus on well-being, safety, and to stay away from the news media and only pay attention to the facts on the science websites. I am encouraging them to look at this as temporary and that this will end soon. If we see a crisis as short-term and take it one day at a time; we can focus on being here and now instead of panicking about an uncertain future.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Dr. Viktor Frankl
Women have been in the trenches since time began. Not taking away from men’s roles or their contributions; but we have done this without freedoms. Without being able to have rights to ourselves or our children. We have been on battlefields nursing the wounded. We have been in impoverished areas tending to the sick. We have put the rights of our sisters ahead of our own families and traveled around the country and the world educating others about the rights of women. We have crossed the great divide while our husbands went in search of gold and maintained our families with no income – creatively figuring out how to make money. We have launched campaigns to protect women and children with our prohibition speeches. We have escaped slavery in order to help others escape. There is nothing women haven’t done in history in order to protect, serve, educate, fight, and this virus is not going to stop us now.
It is not going to stop any of us here in Ohio because we are Ohio Strong.
Tips for managing this world war where there is no escape. Though it will end soon.
Don’t listen to the news media which is full of propaganda and fear mongering. Listen to Science websites and focus on the FACTS not the possibilities. You can only work with evidence not probabilities.
Try not to focus on going into the Black Market business. Unlike WWI and II, we will not be struggling for years with this virus. The shelves will be re-stocked tomorrow. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.
Stay off of social media as much as possible because this is filled with conspiracy theories and fake news.
Focus on the safety of your families and doing what is in their best interests. The panic will cause more conflict than the virus and there will be a surge in crime in the coming weeks no doubt. The unemployment rate is much higher and those without work are mostly those with the lowest paying jobs. This is unfortunate but you can’t be in denial. Takes steps to keep your house safe and walk in public with your head held high and very aware of everything around you. I learned this from living in L.A. and never had anything bad happen to me as a single woman.
Use this time to be creative in your homes. Dust off your instruments and play some music, sing songs, get out the board games, take a walk in the parks – together, have cooking contests or bake-offs, learn to bake bread, pull out your sewing machine, learn a language online as a family.
Wellness is key here and some old family herbs, vitamins, regimes are a good thing to allow to re-surface. Honey is a nice preventative medicine as is vinegar (both by tablespoon once/day). Echinacea is a good treatment when you are feeling a little low. Pull out grandma’s cures and remember her advice. A good pot of chicken noodle soup always does the trick.
Prayer and Meditation will help with anxiety and fears. Having faith is one thing that has always kept people in balance.
With every ending comes a beginning. Each time we have faced a crisis things changed as a result. We will learn so much from this time period and we will grow as Ohioans. Let’s let this period be like no other. We will come out on top because again, we are OHIO STRONG. O-H-I-O Never forget and never give up!