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"Flying is Changing Women!": Women Popularizers of Commercial Aviation and the Renegotiation of Traditional Gender and Technological Boundaries in the 1920s-30s
Master of Arts (M.A.)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Women, Pilots, Aviation, Gender, Technology
This thesis explores how the complex interplay between gender and technology significantly shaped the popularization of commercial aviation in the United States during the 1920s and 30s. As technological innovations improved both the safety and efficiency of airplanes during the early part of the twentieth century, commercial aviation industries increasingly worked to position flight as a viable means of mass transportation. In order to win the trust and money of potential passengers, however, industry proponents recognized the need to separate flight from its initial association with danger and masculine strength by convincing the general public of aviation’s safety and reliability. My work examines the efforts made by industry executives, pilots, and popular news sources to remake the public image of flight by specifically positioning women—as pilots, wives, and mothers—as central to the popularization of commercial aviation. More specifically, this thesis investigates the ways in which female popularizers of commercial aviation effectively mediated the boundaries between technologies and society, and how women’s positions as technological boundary workers often required them to redefine the social meanings and expectations of their gender.