316 Notes

Obit of the Day: Air Pioneer
Lettice Curtis had her pilot’s license for only three years when she was recruited to Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in 1940. The ATA’s sole mission was to ferry aircraft in and around the British Isles to make them accessible for members of the Royal Air Force. A shortage of male pilots forced the ATA to invite women to join, and Ms. Curtis was one of the first.
She was also the best. During her five years of service Ms. Curtis transported more than 1500 aircraft. Everything from Spitfire fighter planes, to the two-engine multi-purpose Mosquito, to the Lancaster four-engine bomber, had to be flown by Ms. Curtis, often solo and using only a map for navigation. Ms. Curtis was, in fact, the first woman in the world to qualify to fly four-engine bombers including the American B-17 Flying Fortress. She gained national attention in October 1942 when she met and shook hands with Eleanor Roosevelt and Clementine Churchill. 
Ms. Curtis was one of 166 women served in the ATA, which was dubbed ”Always Terrified Airwomen” by cynical journalists when the program was first expanded. The pilots came not just from the United Kingdom but also the U.S., The Netherlands, and Poland. Fifteen women lost their lives while serving in the ATA, a remarkably low death rate for pilots asked to fly at all hours and in all types of weather.a
After the end of World War II, Ms. Curtis hoped to fly in a professional setting but with the end of the war came the end of a need for women pilots. Like so many other women of the era Ms. Curtis was pushed aside to make room for the men returning from the front. While interviewing for a test pilot position with one company, she heard and entire boardroom break into laughter when told she was waiting in the lobby.
Ms. Curtis found her way airborn by participating in the air racing circuit. And she continued to excel. Flying in a borrowed Spitfire, Ms. Curtis set a women’s record in the 100 km closed loop race in 1948. Later, in her own private plane, she raced nationally against all pilots, male and female.
Later in life, she also took it upon herself to tell the story of the ATA and wrote The Forgotten Pilots which was published in 1971. She wrote her autobiography, Lettice Curtis, in 2004.
In 2008, Ms. Curtis and fourteen other surviving women who flew for the ATA were honored by the British government for their service in the war with a special patch. (The men of the ATA were recognized as well.) “The Forgotten Pilots” had finally gotten their due.
Lettice Curtis, who earned her helicopter pilot’s license at the age of 77, died on July 21, 2014 at the age of 99.
Sources: Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, and Wikipedia
(Image of Lettice Curtis stepping into the cockpit of a Spitfire sometime during World War II is courtesy of The Daily Mail)
Other women pilots featured on Obit of the Day:
Nadhezda Popova - One of the Sovet Union’s “Night Witches”
Betty Skelton - Dubbed “The Fastest Woman on Earth”
Patricia Wilson - Member of Philadelphia’s Civil Air Defense in WWII

Obit of the Day: Air Pioneer

Lettice Curtis had her pilot’s license for only three years when she was recruited to Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in 1940. The ATA’s sole mission was to ferry aircraft in and around the British Isles to make them accessible for members of the Royal Air Force. A shortage of male pilots forced the ATA to invite women to join, and Ms. Curtis was one of the first.

She was also the best. During her five years of service Ms. Curtis transported more than 1500 aircraft. Everything from Spitfire fighter planes, to the two-engine multi-purpose Mosquito, to the Lancaster four-engine bomber, had to be flown by Ms. Curtis, often solo and using only a map for navigation. Ms. Curtis was, in fact, the first woman in the world to qualify to fly four-engine bombers including the American B-17 Flying Fortress. She gained national attention in October 1942 when she met and shook hands with Eleanor Roosevelt and Clementine Churchill. 

Ms. Curtis was one of 166 women served in the ATA, which was dubbed ”Always Terrified Airwomen” by cynical journalists when the program was first expanded. The pilots came not just from the United Kingdom but also the U.S., The Netherlands, and Poland. Fifteen women lost their lives while serving in the ATA, a remarkably low death rate for pilots asked to fly at all hours and in all types of weather.a

After the end of World War II, Ms. Curtis hoped to fly in a professional setting but with the end of the war came the end of a need for women pilots. Like so many other women of the era Ms. Curtis was pushed aside to make room for the men returning from the front. While interviewing for a test pilot position with one company, she heard and entire boardroom break into laughter when told she was waiting in the lobby.

Ms. Curtis found her way airborn by participating in the air racing circuit. And she continued to excel. Flying in a borrowed Spitfire, Ms. Curtis set a women’s record in the 100 km closed loop race in 1948. Later, in her own private plane, she raced nationally against all pilots, male and female.

Later in life, she also took it upon herself to tell the story of the ATA and wrote The Forgotten Pilots which was published in 1971. She wrote her autobiography, Lettice Curtis, in 2004.

In 2008, Ms. Curtis and fourteen other surviving women who flew for the ATA were honored by the British government for their service in the war with a special patch. (The men of the ATA were recognized as well.) “The Forgotten Pilots” had finally gotten their due.

Lettice Curtis, who earned her helicopter pilot’s license at the age of 77, died on July 21, 2014 at the age of 99.

Sources: Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, and Wikipedia

(Image of Lettice Curtis stepping into the cockpit of a Spitfire sometime during World War II is courtesy of The Daily Mail)

Other women pilots featured on Obit of the Day:

Nadhezda Popova - One of the Sovet Union’s “Night Witches”

Betty Skelton - Dubbed “The Fastest Woman on Earth”

Patricia Wilson - Member of Philadelphia’s Civil Air Defense in WWII

234 Notes

Obit of the Day (Historical): Dr. James Barry (1865)
When Dr. James Barry, British military physician, died of dysentary (or perhaps typhiod) on July 25, 1865, he was laid out for burial by a servant, as was the custom. Much to the charwoman’s surprise, the doctor was biologically a woman. A women who had also been pregnant at one time.
Dr. Barry’s past is a cloudy one. His date of birth cannot be accurately pinpointed, but it is often given as 1795 or 1792. He appears in education records suddenly in 1809 as a first-year student the the University of Edinburgh Medical School. He graduated in 1812, although he was nearly denied his degree because of his youth (17-20 years of age at the time). He then joined the British Army.
As with many soldiers at the peak of the British Empire, Dr. Barry was stationed throughout the world. His first posting of any length was at the Cape Colony (now Capetown, South Africa) where he earned a reputation for his medical skill and administrative ability. He made special point of inspecting troop garrisons and instituting policies that increased the health of the men stationed at the colony.
Even with all his success, Dr. Barry had trouble with authority and lost his rank on occasion. His lowest point occurred in 1838 when disagreements with commanding officers on Jamaica cost him his position, saw him placed in handcuffs and removed from the island by force.
By the time of the outbreak of the Crimean War, Dr. Barry had regained his rank of Deputy Inspector of Hospitals and was serving on the island of Corfu. He reputation was burnished by his significant survival rate of war wounded, losing only 17 patients out of 462 transported to the island. (In contrast the horrific Scutari Hospital, in Turkey, had soldiers dying at a rate of 20 per day.)
It was during a visit to Scutari that Dr. Barry met Florence Nightingale who was reforming the infamous medical facility and would earn her own fame among the British. According to contemporary accounts the two had a mutual dislike for each other from the moment they met.
This personality conflict likely ended up with Nightingale influencing the military to ship Dr. Barry to Canada in 1857. Although he received a promotion to Inspector-General of Hospital for the entire country (equivalent in rank to a brigadier general), he was still far from the more active parts of the Empire.
However Dr. Barry threw himself into his work and once again improved living conditions among the soldiers, most notably by reducing rates of alcoholism. (He also created barracks for married couples, who, prior to Dr. Barry, slept alongside unmarried soldiers.)
Dr. Barry was semi-retired by Army command in 1859 when he was sickened by a bout of influenza. He would spend the rest of his life in seclusion in the Marlyebone neighborhood of London with his dog “Psyche.” (He owned several dogs during his lifetime, all with the same name.)
Upon Dr. Barry’s death, at approximately the age of 70, his secret was exposed. Close friends, associates, and military leadership all wondered how Dr. Barry could avoid detection for more than 50 years of service. Some claimed to have “known all along,” but others were astounded, including his personal physician who wrote Dr. Barry’s death certificate.
Dr. Barry also managed to take precautions, specifically avoiding barracks living for himself. In 1829, he took an unscheduled leave of absence from his post in the British West Indies. When asked about it by his commanding officer, Dr. Barry said he had returned to London for a haircut. Some scholars now believe that the return to England was precipitated by Dr. Barry’s well-hidden pregnancy.
The British Army sealed Dr. Barry’s records for 100 years after his death, but Isobel Rae, a British historian, was able to access them in the 1950s. Through her research it was determined that Dr. Barry was most likely Margaret Ann Bulkley. What is not known is whether Dr. Barry lived as a man simply to have the opportunity to work as a physician - a position denied to most women at the time, or if he was expressing his gender identity. (There is a theory that Dr. Barry was born intersex but that appears to be a minority opinion.)
Dr. James Barry is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in London with full rank.
Sources: BBC News, Biographical Dictionary of Canada, USMedicine.com (via WayBack Machine), Wikipedia
(Image of Dr. James Barry with his manservant John and Barry’s dog Psyche, c. 1862 courtesy of Wikimedia.org)

Obit of the Day (Historical): Dr. James Barry (1865)

When Dr. James Barry, British military physician, died of dysentary (or perhaps typhiod) on July 25, 1865, he was laid out for burial by a servant, as was the custom. Much to the charwoman’s surprise, the doctor was biologically a woman. A women who had also been pregnant at one time.

Dr. Barry’s past is a cloudy one. His date of birth cannot be accurately pinpointed, but it is often given as 1795 or 1792. He appears in education records suddenly in 1809 as a first-year student the the University of Edinburgh Medical School. He graduated in 1812, although he was nearly denied his degree because of his youth (17-20 years of age at the time). He then joined the British Army.

As with many soldiers at the peak of the British Empire, Dr. Barry was stationed throughout the world. His first posting of any length was at the Cape Colony (now Capetown, South Africa) where he earned a reputation for his medical skill and administrative ability. He made special point of inspecting troop garrisons and instituting policies that increased the health of the men stationed at the colony.

Even with all his success, Dr. Barry had trouble with authority and lost his rank on occasion. His lowest point occurred in 1838 when disagreements with commanding officers on Jamaica cost him his position, saw him placed in handcuffs and removed from the island by force.

By the time of the outbreak of the Crimean War, Dr. Barry had regained his rank of Deputy Inspector of Hospitals and was serving on the island of Corfu. He reputation was burnished by his significant survival rate of war wounded, losing only 17 patients out of 462 transported to the island. (In contrast the horrific Scutari Hospital, in Turkey, had soldiers dying at a rate of 20 per day.)

It was during a visit to Scutari that Dr. Barry met Florence Nightingale who was reforming the infamous medical facility and would earn her own fame among the British. According to contemporary accounts the two had a mutual dislike for each other from the moment they met.

This personality conflict likely ended up with Nightingale influencing the military to ship Dr. Barry to Canada in 1857. Although he received a promotion to Inspector-General of Hospital for the entire country (equivalent in rank to a brigadier general), he was still far from the more active parts of the Empire.

However Dr. Barry threw himself into his work and once again improved living conditions among the soldiers, most notably by reducing rates of alcoholism. (He also created barracks for married couples, who, prior to Dr. Barry, slept alongside unmarried soldiers.)

Dr. Barry was semi-retired by Army command in 1859 when he was sickened by a bout of influenza. He would spend the rest of his life in seclusion in the Marlyebone neighborhood of London with his dog “Psyche.” (He owned several dogs during his lifetime, all with the same name.)

Upon Dr. Barry’s death, at approximately the age of 70, his secret was exposed. Close friends, associates, and military leadership all wondered how Dr. Barry could avoid detection for more than 50 years of service. Some claimed to have “known all along,” but others were astounded, including his personal physician who wrote Dr. Barry’s death certificate.

Dr. Barry also managed to take precautions, specifically avoiding barracks living for himself. In 1829, he took an unscheduled leave of absence from his post in the British West Indies. When asked about it by his commanding officer, Dr. Barry said he had returned to London for a haircut. Some scholars now believe that the return to England was precipitated by Dr. Barry’s well-hidden pregnancy.

The British Army sealed Dr. Barry’s records for 100 years after his death, but Isobel Rae, a British historian, was able to access them in the 1950s. Through her research it was determined that Dr. Barry was most likely Margaret Ann Bulkley. What is not known is whether Dr. Barry lived as a man simply to have the opportunity to work as a physician - a position denied to most women at the time, or if he was expressing his gender identity. (There is a theory that Dr. Barry was born intersex but that appears to be a minority opinion.)

Dr. James Barry is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in London with full rank.

Sources: BBC News, Biographical Dictionary of Canada, USMedicine.com (via WayBack Machine), Wikipedia

(Image of Dr. James Barry with his manservant John and Barry’s dog Psyche, c. 1862 courtesy of Wikimedia.org)

89 Notes

obitoftheday:

Obit of the Day: Co-Creator Batman TV Series

The dark, brooding Batman that has dominated the comic book pages and movie screens of late was nowhere to be found on January 12, 1966 when the half-hour television series premiered.

Lorenzo Semple and William Napier, who brought the production to ABC, felt that the story of a millionaire who dressed as a bat to fight crime was campy not dark. So the new show was filled with cariactures of villains, an overserious hero, and fight scenes punctuated with screen-covering interjections like “Pow!”, “Krunch!” and “Klonk!” 

Mr. Semple wrote the show’s first four episodes as well as ten others during the production’s three seasons. At its peak, Batman was a top ten show televised twice a week (Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.) with the first episode ending in a cliffhanger resolved in the second. In the third season, the show returned to a more traditional schedule of once per week. 

The show popularity and critical acclaim (it earned an Emmy nomination for Best Comedy) also helped it cast some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, notably as the show’s villains. Besides the original four - Caesar Romero (The Joker), Frank Gorshin (The Riddler), Burgess Meredith (The Penguin) and Jule Newmar* (Catwoman) - some familiar names tried to stop the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder on a weekly basis, including Vincent Price (Egghead), Cliff Robertson (Shame), Shelley Winters (Ma Parker), Ethel Merman (Lola Lasagna), and Milton Berle (Louie the Lilac).

Only six months after it’s television premiere, Batman: The Movie opened in theaters with a screenplay written by Mr. Semple. But it was too much of a good thing. After two seasons finishing in the top ten of the Nielsen ratings, the show’s popularity dropped off considerably in 1968 and the show’s final episode aired in March of that year.

Although Mr. Semple called Batman “the best thing I ever wrote” he was an accomplished screenwriter. He wrote screenplays for fifteen films including Papillon (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975), King Kong (1976), and Flash Gordon (1980). 

Lorenzo Semple, who also earned a Croix de Guerre fighting for the French in Libya early in World War II and then a Bronze Star fighting for the U.S., died on March 28, 2014 at the age of 91.

Sources: NY Times, IMDB.com, and Wikipedia

(Opening credits from Batman television series is copyright of ABC and courtesy of kallemalle912 on YouTube.com)

* Eartha Kitt replaced Ms. Newmar in the final season as Catwoman and Lee Meriweather played the feline villain in Batman: The Movie.

Another Batman Day entry…

Don’t forget that lots of comic shops are doing promotions for the 75th anniversary of Batman’s first appearance in DC Comics, including a free Batman comic, Batman masks, and other cool giveaways.

145 Notes

obitoftheday:

Obit of the Day: Creator of Robin and The Joker
Jerry Robinson was only a seventeen-year old kid when he was brought in letter and ink the brand-new “Batman” comic books created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Robinson, a native of New Jersey, contributed more than a steady hand, though.
In 1940, Kane and Finger decided to give Batman a sidekick. Robinson offered up the idea of “Robin.” But the idea was not just because of the connection with small flying things. Robinson had grown up as a fan of Robin Hood and paid homage to his hero in this small way. (Note the medieval feel of the lettering that introduces Robin, above.)
Then things get a little more interesting. After starting a series devoted solely to Batman - he originally appeared in Detective Comics - there was decision to create a new villain. According to one story, Robinson presented the idea of “The Joker” based on the image from a playing card he had. While drawing a draft, Bill Finger walked up and thought that Robinson’s character looked a lot like Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs. He brought some stills for Robinson to look at and the Joker’s distinctly creepy grin made history.
Bob Kane claims that Robinson only showed him the playing card (which does exist and has even been publicly exhibited as Robinson’s prototype) but Kane and Finger were the sole creators of the character.
Random note: Kane also took credit for creating Batman but Robinson and others believe that Bill Finger should be given a share of the credit. 
Robinson who also authored The Comics: The Illustrated History of Comic Book Art, 1895-2010, was awarded with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2010. He was 89 years old.
(Image of Detective Comics, #38 copyright of DC Comics and courtesy of dc.wikia.com)

Happy Batman Day!
Important note: Bill Finger is finally being given credit for the co-creation of Batman in issue #27 of Detective Comics (New 52) given out today for FREE at most comic book stores in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the appearance of the Caped Crusader.

obitoftheday:

Obit of the Day: Creator of Robin and The Joker

Jerry Robinson was only a seventeen-year old kid when he was brought in letter and ink the brand-new “Batman” comic books created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Robinson, a native of New Jersey, contributed more than a steady hand, though.

In 1940, Kane and Finger decided to give Batman a sidekick. Robinson offered up the idea of “Robin.” But the idea was not just because of the connection with small flying things. Robinson had grown up as a fan of Robin Hood and paid homage to his hero in this small way. (Note the medieval feel of the lettering that introduces Robin, above.)

Then things get a little more interesting. After starting a series devoted solely to Batman - he originally appeared in Detective Comics - there was decision to create a new villain. According to one story, Robinson presented the idea of “The Joker” based on the image from a playing card he had. While drawing a draft, Bill Finger walked up and thought that Robinson’s character looked a lot like Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs. He brought some stills for Robinson to look at and the Joker’s distinctly creepy grin made history.

Bob Kane claims that Robinson only showed him the playing card (which does exist and has even been publicly exhibited as Robinson’s prototype) but Kane and Finger were the sole creators of the character.

Random note: Kane also took credit for creating Batman but Robinson and others believe that Bill Finger should be given a share of the credit. 

Robinson who also authored The Comics: The Illustrated History of Comic Book Art, 1895-2010, was awarded with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2010. He was 89 years old.

(Image of Detective Comics, #38 copyright of DC Comics and courtesy of dc.wikia.com)

Happy Batman Day!

Important note: Bill Finger is finally being given credit for the co-creation of Batman in issue #27 of Detective Comics (New 52) given out today for FREE at most comic book stores in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the appearance of the Caped Crusader.