Dames! Broads! Dolls! Who’d put up with ’em, eh?
No sooner did Californian women get the right to vote in 1911, all that power just up and went to their pretty little heads. Before men could shuffle them back into the kitchen, they were out in the world, doing the Charleston, wearing trousers on Sunday and—*checks notes*—doing death-defying stunts. And no, I’m not making that last one up.
A handful of these fearless women happened to live (or regularly do crazy crap) in the Bay Area. Let’s meet the ones who spent no time dilly-dallying on the way to the airfield/motorcycle shop/other thing that could immediately kill them.
Maxine Dunlap, Glider Pilot
In 1929, a 19-year-old named Maxine Dunlap climbed into a small plane, took to the skies over Mills Field (today’s SFO) and performed a series of stunts—including multiple barrel rolls—entirely unassisted. It earned the teen a pilot’s license—the first woman to earn one in San Francisco. Dunlap promptly threw herself at the sky with gusto.
First, Dunlap joined the Ninety-Nines, a newly established flying club for women. She also competed that April in a race against two other talented female pilots—Marvel Crosson and Bobbi Trout—at Oakland Airport. After clocking up scores of hours in the air, however, Dunlap decided that flying with the support of engines was simply—pish-posh!—not enough of a challenge. She turned her attention to glider planes—moderately terrifying contraptions that left pilots out on a limb, exposed to the elements and looking, for the most part, like a Wright Brothers prototype that was about to nosedive into the dirt.
As soon as she hopped into one, it was clear that Dunlap had a knack for gliding. To give you some idea of how good she was, within weeks of attempting to fly one for the first time, Dunlap earned the first glider plane license ever awarded to a woman in America. Even Amelia Earhart failed to acquire her glider certification after struggling to stay in the air. (During her test, Earhart managed to stay aloft for just 17 seconds. Dunlap managed 50.)