Ruth Elder

Ruth Elder (September 8, 1902-October 9, 1977) was an aviation pioneer and actress.[2][3] She carried private pilot certificate P675, and was known as the "Miss America of Aviation."[4] She was a charter member of the Ninety-Nines.[4]

Ruth Elder
Ruth Elder
Ruth Elder

September 8, 1902
DiedOctober 9, 1977(1977-10-09) (aged 75)
San Francisco
Known forEarly aviation records, including first woman to attempt transatlantic flight; film star
  • C.E. Moody (m. 19201922)
  • Lyle Womack (m. 19251928)
  • Walter Camp (m. 19291932)
  • G.K. Thackery (m. 19321932)
  • A. Arnold Gillespie (m. 19331944)
    [1] (1 son)
  • Ralph P. King (m. 1945-1953)
  • Ralph P. King (m. 19561977)
    (her death)

In 1927 she took off from New York in the airplane American Girl, George Haldeman as her pilot, in an attempt to become the first woman transatlantic airplane rider. Mechanical problems caused them to ditch the plane 360 miles from land, but they established a new over-water endurance flight record of 2,623 miles.[5] It was also at the time the longest flight ever made by a woman.[2] She and George were honored with a ticker-tape parade upon their return.[6]

After her flight, she embarked on a series of lucrative speaking engagements and was given a movie contract. She starred in Moran of the Marines (1928) and The Winged Horseman (1929).[6]

In 1929 she entered the first Women's Air Derby, flying in her Swallow, NC8730, and placed fifth.[2]

She married six times. She married Walter Camp, Jr., son of the early football innovator, on August 29, 1929, but filed for divorce in Reno, Nevada, on November 14, 1932.[7] Her final union was with Ralph P. King, to whom she was married for 21 years and who outlived her.[3] She had suffered emphysema for several years before she died.[3] She had one son, William Trent Gillespie (1940-2008), from her marriage to movie effects pioneer A. Arnold Gillespie.

She worked as an executive secretary in the aviation industry in her later career,[8] hired by Howard Hughes who had initially forgotten who she was.[9]

In 2013 an inspirational juvenile book was published about her, written by Julie Cummins and illustrated by Malene R. Laugesen, titled, Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America's Heart.[10] The title character of the Ruth Darrow Flying Stories book series is said be based on Ruth Elder.[11] In 2016, her story was told in novelized version in Crossing the Horizon by Laurie Notaro.[12]


  1. Corbis
  2. "The RUTH ELDER Page of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register Website". Retrieved 2014-03-01.
  3. "Ruth Elder, aviatrix, dies at 73". The Free Lance-Star. 1977-10-10. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  4. "The Ruth Elder Page of the Parks Airport Register Web Site". Retrieved 2014-03-01.
  5. Lynn M. Homan, et al., Women Who Fly (Pelican Publishing, 2004) p46-47; "RUTH ELDER HOPS OFF!", Milwaukee Sentinel, October 11, 1927, p1
  6. A Guide to Historic Lakeland, Florida - Steve Rajtar - Google Books. Retrieved 2014-03-01.
  7. United Press, "Woman Flier Files For Divorce", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Tuesday 15 November 1932, Volume 39, page 4.
  8. Associated Press, photo caption dated July 16, 1955: "Twenty-eight years after she achieved world fame as the first woman to attempt a transatlantic flight, Ruth Elder works at a desk in Culver City, Calif., as secretary to an aircraft executive."
  9. Bair, Cinnamon (Apr 22, 2007). "Ruth Elder Just Wanted To Soar". The Ledger (Lakeland FL). Gatehouse Media. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  10. "Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America's Heart: Julie Cummins, Malene R. Laugesen: 9781596435094: Books". 2013-07-23. Retrieved 2014-03-01.
  11. "Ruth Darrow Flying Stories".
  12. Crossing the Horizon: A Novel, Simon and Schuster
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