Tag Archives: betty mcnabb

The Flying Lady

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.Little Red Hen article

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.

ListBetty 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.

Civil Air PatrolBetty with plane standing

Women for FSU event

Text provided by Gina Woodward
Photographs by Burt Altman, Liz Johnson, Gina Woodward, and Kat Bell

Women For FSU Logo
Florida State University Libraries Welcomes The Women for Florida State University

On Saturday, March 19, 2011, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections and Archives and Heritage Protocol hosted the Back-Stage Pass event for the Women for Florida State University (FSU).

The Women for FSU is an organization for women who share a passion for Florida State University.  The members span multiple generations and diverse backgrounds, but they are united by the desire to support the university in whatever way they can.  Members choose their level of involvement and join in activities as their schedules permit.

Over 85 women participated in the Back-Stage Pass event. As they arrived, they were greeted by Julia Zimmerman, Dean of the University Libraries. The groups were then divided up, with half of the participants visiting Heritage Protocol while the other half visited Special Collections, then switching between locations.

Sammie Morris, Associate Dean for Special Collections and Digital Initiatives, spoke to the participants about the wide variety of rare books and manuscripts available for research in Special Collections.  Several examples from the collection were on display, including a signed copy of The Chimney Corner by Harriet Beecher Stowe, books on women’s rights, women in Southern literature, women’s efforts during World War I and World War II, and women’s education. The display included a 15th century handwritten and illuminated manuscript created by nuns in Venice, Italy.  Additional manuscripts included letters from Helen Keller and Harriet Beecher Stowe; scrapbooks of Betty Wood McNabb, a 1930 Florida State College for Women (FSCW) alumna and pilot; and a lengthy handwritten oration on poetry delivered by Lucile Gregory at FSCW in 1911.

Dr. Christie Koontz, a faculty member in FSU’s College of Information and an expert on marketing and storytelling, served as a guest speaker at the event. Dr. Koontz read an excerpt from Lucile Gregory’s 1911 oration and talked about the serendipity of archival research, in particular how connections can be made with archival material that lead to the creation of new knowledge. The audience shared Dr. Koontz’s awe that Lucile Gregory gave her award-winning 11-page oration entirely by memory, as was the custom at FSCW at the time.

Dick Puckett, who along with Ed Franklin made up the famous Florida State University Flying Seminoles, also served as a guest speaker.  The Flying Seminoles performed in Native American costumes, and had unusual baton twirling dance routines with the Marching Chiefs and at other events.  He spoke about his memories of FSU and the personal items he has donated to Heritage Protocol, a university-wide organization dedicated to collecting and preserving FSU history.  Visitors to Heritage Protocol were able to view historical photographs of FSU and FSCW, as well as yearbooks, documents, and memorabilia.

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