Ruth Law, the young woman standing fourth from right in this 1917 picture, had a right to look proud.
She was the first enlisted U.S. Army aviatrix and the first woman authorized to wear a military uniform. Law posed for this picture while training with the 38th Infantry Division at Camp Shelby in South Mississippi during World War I.
Born in 1887, Ruth Law was a woman of many firsts. She received her pilot's license in 1912, and in 1913 became the first woman to make a night flight and she did it in the plane she purchased from Orville Wright. The aviatrix worked first as a commercial pilot and then began piling up and setting U.S. and world records.
The intrepid lady was the first woman to perform a loop the loop in 1915; set three speed records in 1916; set the world's altitude record; and was the first to carry air mail to the Philippine Islands in 1917. When the army refused to let her fly combat missions, she used her flying skills to recruit aviators and to aid the Red Cross.
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After the war she founded "Ruth Law's Flying Circus." The three-plane troop performed death-defying stunts that thrilled spectators and kept them coming back for more. In 1922 her husband, Charles Oliver, so feared for her life he asked her to give up her flying and just be a wife, which she did.
Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast's distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and daytime phone number to Flashback, the Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; or call 896-2424; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.