An Early Female Aviator's 1935 Christmas Card

December 04, 2019

It's Christmas card time, but we're guessing that very few of you have made cards as cool as this one sent by the Bowmans, a family of early aviators, in 1935.

Marguerite (Martie) Bowman (1901-1985) and her husband Leslie were both pilots, and together they ran a business ferrying planes during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Martie is depicted on the right, and in the centre photo she is flying her Waco-INF bi-plane, registration number NC625Y. Presumably the other two planes in the formation were being piloted by Leslie and the couple's daughter, Larnie (portrait at top). Larnie joined the family business early, becoming a wing-walker at age eight and flying solo at the remarkably early age of twelve.

Martie was a keen participant in air races; she competed in the 1930 Women’s Dixie Air Derby from Washington D. C. to Chicago, and won both the Women’s International Air Derby of 1934 and the two-day women’s championship Shell Trophy Cup at Long Beach, California. Author Janet Sherman, in her biography of fellow pilot Phoebie Omlie, recounts that during the Dixie Derby Bowman selflessly assisted Omlie by waking up each hour during the night to apply medicated drops to her eyes after an injury (Sherman, Walking on Air, p. 65).