Last year in March, when preparing for The Women For FSU event, I became familiar with the Betty Wood McNabb Collection and was intrigued by it. In celebration of Women’s History Month I thought it was a perfect time to highlight an extraordinary woman and this collection. The collection of memorabilia from her life and career includes scrapbooks from 1950-1989, appointment books, flight logs, daily diaries, medals, pins, and charms. The scrapbooks include photographs, correspondence, cards, letters, certificates she received, and articles and poems written by her.
Betty Wood McNabb was born on August 5, 1909 in Spring Lake, Michigan. She attended Florida State College for Women and received her B.A. in History in 1930. She went on to receive an M.A. in History from the University of California. She and her husband, Harold McNabb, both served in World War II efforts, volunteering for the Albany (Georgia) Civilian Defense Corps and the Red Cross Motor Corps.
Betty enlisted in the military in October 1944 and her basic training was at Fort Ogelthorpe, Georgia Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. She graduated in December 1944 as a WAC Private. As a Sergeant in 1945, she wanted to go overseas, but WAC married members were not permitted to travel. She then went to work at Albany Putney Hospital and progressed in her career as a Medical Records Specialist. When the state of Georgia hired her as a consultant to set up a statewide Medical Record System she traveled from hospital to hospital and enjoyed the driving.
Betty had always dreamed of learning to fly and began lessons in 1951 at age 42. She bought a plane after three weeks of lessons, and joined the Ninety-Nines, an organization for women pilots founded by Amelia Earhart. Betty began writing for various newspapers, and published a book, Medical Record Procedures in Small Hospitals, in 1954. She joined the Civil Air Patrol and became a Major in 1958. She attended the Air War College, and in 1964 she became the first female officer to receive a diploma. She was a pilot for the Coast Guard Auxiliary from 1969 to 1991. Betty flew until she was 82 years old, when her deteriorating vision caused her to hang up her wings.
It is clear in looking through the scrapbooks that she lived a full, interesting and adventuresome life while making great strides in women’s aviation history.