Guest Post on 20th Century Stunts
When people first started beta reading NOTHING BUT SKY I frequently received the same comments in the notes. They went along the lines of something like “No way did someone actually do this stunt” or “It’s not possible to do this trick and not get hurt.” To be honest, I would have said the same exact thing if I didn’t know the background on some of these real-life performers.
In the opening scene of NOTHING BUT SKY my main character, Grace performs a ridiculously dangerous and epic stunt. It sets the tone for the entire book, and much to reader’s disbelief, it really was a stunt performed by many women back in the 1920s.
The story of a female wing walker was just a nugget of an idea for me back in 2013. It wasn’t until I started doing research that I discovered pictures and film of these performers taking to the skies.
This photo of Gladys Ingle, who was part of a Hollywood stunt team called the 13 Black Cats, shows her preparing for a plane-to-plane transfer. I must have looked at it a dozen times as I was writing NOTHING BUT SKY. It was important to me to include every detail of the stunt. Where her feet were placed. How her body crouched low. And notice something missing? She’s not wearing a parachute. Five hundred feet above ground and the only thing keeping her from being yanked off the wing is her focus and determination to finish the stunt.
Source: San Diego Air and Space Museum
Women like Gladys, Lillian Boyer, Ethel Dare, and Mabel Cody took to the skies after World War I. They travelled about usually with a team and performed on retired WWI training planes at county fairs and small town air shows. They’d collect their fee and move on to another town day after day. It was a very nomadic existence, but if you read the limited amount of information on these women, you’ll soon learn they loved this adrenaline-inducing life.
NOTHING BUT SKY is filled with dramatic stunts, but it also delves into the battles these women faced on the ground. The sky was a playground for male pilots and performers and women were just starting to realize they too could have a life in the air. Where once they were seen as a novelty, these women created their own teams and had their own successes.
I hope that by creating Grace’s world people will begin to recognize the great contribution these women brought to aviation. Many of their stories are untold, but these women should receive recognition for the risks they took and notoriety they brought to the world of early twentieth century barnstorming.
*~~About the Author~~*
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to check out another enchantingly epic #EE18ers post! 😉