Ruth Law

Pilot Ruth Law seated in an aircraft
Ruth Law

Ruth Law bought her first airplane at age 21. It was 1912, and the man who sold her the airplane was aviation legend Orville Wright. Law had fallen in love with flying and attacked it with gusto. During World War I, Law, wearing a men's military uniform by special permission, called on President Wilson to request permission to join the forces in Europe. A headline in the New York Times ran: "Ruth Law at White House. Sees President and Thinks She Will Get an Army Commission." The article went on to note that she was asking for a commission in the aviation of the Signal Corps. When the President refused to grant that permission, Law returned to helping with the war effort in other ways, including flying expositions for Liberty Loan and Red Cross drives.

After the war ended, Law organized a barnstorming group called the "Ruth Law Flying Circus," in which she flew aerial acrobatics in her Curtiss biplane. In 1919, she was given the honor of carrying the first official air mail to the Philippine Islands. She also spent some time instructing others, noting that "it has been my experience, in teaching men, that they are more timid on their first trips than are women." In 1922 Law, possibly at the insistence of her concerned husband, Charles Oliver, retired from flying. Law passed away at age 83 on December 1, 1970 in San Francisco, California.

In a May 26, 1917 interview with a reporter from the "Christian Science Monitor," Law defended women's interest in flying. "Women have qualities which make them good aviators, too. They are courageous, self-possessed, clear-visioned, quick to decide in an emergency, and usually they make wise decisions." Law also talked about her love for flying. "There is an indescribable feeling which one experiences in flying; it comes with no other sport or navigation. It takes courage and daring; and one must be self-possessed, for there are moments when one's wits are tested to the full. Yet there is an exhilaration that compensates for all one's efforts. I shall never forget my first flight. I had the sensation of being shot out of a gun, as we rose from the earth. Then, slowly, I grew used to the feeling, and the joy of rising up into the air and watching the earth recede took possession of me. There is a great sense of the noise of the machine at first, but soon even that seems to fall off behind. The wind against the face is splendid, and to watch the villages, towns and cities, just pretty patches on the earth, from that nearness to the fleecy clouds, gives a spice to the sport that I find in nothing else."

Fad to Fundamental: Airmail in America