First there were the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, who astonished the world by flying a heavier than air machine. After them came a series of national and international heroes who linked continents around the world by air – Louis Bleriot, who flew a monoplane across the English Channel; Lindberg who crossed the Atlantic, and Charles Kingsford-Smith’s epic flight that bridged the Pacific.
Around the same time in the late nineteen twenties and throughout the nineteen thirties there came a litany of famous names, female fliers who began to capture headlines. In an era when women were discriminated against in the job market, and unable to vote in many countries, when it was rare to see a woman at the wheel of a motor car, this bunch of aviators sometimes outdid their male counterparts in daring and achievement.
America’s Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly the Atlantic in 1928. Amy Johnson, Britain’s sweetheart, broke records and flew for the army in wartime Britain, ferrying troops and supplies. Bessie Coleman another American pilot, being black, was barred from flying in her own country and gained her licence in France. Nancy Bird Walton in Australia and Jean Batten in New Zealand broke records and created headlines in their own countries.
And then there was Jessie Miller. Few people knew of her until 1980, when an expatriate Australian, Wilton Dickson, found the wreckage of an aircraft in the Sahara Desert. He also discovered the dead pilot’s diary and traced the story of his love affair with a young Australian woman he’d taught to fly. In 1986 I was the fortunate recipient of this diary. Wilton sent it to me, having seen a number of mini-series I’d written for television in Australia and New Zealand. From it I wrote “The Lancaster Miller Affair”. It was such a gripping and romantic story that twenty years later I adapted my own television work into a novel and called it Glory Girl. The names were changed because I introduced some fictional characters but it is still the story of an adventurous Aussie girl who flew and sometimes bettered the more famous aviators of her time.
An overview of Glory Girl – In this novel Jessie Miller is renamed Sarah Carson and Bill Lancaster is James Harrington.
Sarah Carson came from a small outback town. Seeking adventure in 1926 she went to England where she met former RAF pilot, James Harrington. It was the Jazz Age when this pair of aviators set out to conquer new worlds. Seeking to be the first to fly a two seat plane from Britain to Australia, they were on target when their plane crashed in Singapore. But out of calamity they created their own legend of courage and determination. Deeply in love, they repaired the plane and completed the flight, to be met by thousands in Australia. Then in America, Sarah flew in a famous women’s derby across the country, where she beat Amelia Earhart.