Film on Women Pioneers in Aviation to Screen at Santa Monica Library

  • Apr 28, 2015 10:59am GMT

On Friday evening, May 1st, at 6:00 p.m., there will be a special screening of a wonderful aviation film, “Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby,” at the Santa Monica Library’s Martin Luther King Auditorium. Heather Taylor, the Producer/Director of the film, will be present to answer questions and provide background on the making of the movie. Admission is free.

The film tells the story of the first women’s transcontinental air race which originated at Clover Field – now Santa Monica Airport (SMO) – and concluded eight days later in Cleveland, Ohio. And Clover Field was just that at the time – no runway, just an open field!

In the summer of 1929 there was great interest in aviation and major advances were being achieved regularly. Air races had been held nationally and internationally since 1909, but accomplished female pilots were not permitted to participate. Finally, in 1929, the Women’s Air Derby was established as part of the National Air Races. Humorist Will Rogers dubbed the groundbreaking race “The Powder Puff Derby.” This first air race for women was highly publicized and drew a great deal of attention.

On August 18, 1929, 20 young female aviators assembled at Clover Field to take part in the inaugural competition. Among them were Amelia Earhart, Pancho Barnes, Bobbie Trout and Louise Thaden. Fourteen of them finished the race in their aircraft, and seventeen made it to Cleveland for the closing celebration. A crowd estimated at 18,000 people gathered at the Cleveland Municipal Airport to greet the pilots and watch Louise Thaden win the race.

“Breaking Through the Clouds” sheds light on a fascinating time in early aviation and on the initial stages of Santa Monica’s important role in the development of aviation.

The Santa Monica Library is located at 601 Santa Monica Boulevard, in Santa Monica, but the entrance to the Martin Luther King Auditorium is around the corner on 7th Street. For information about attending the film, please contact Ed Story at