by Janet Crain
She then became a self employed laundress, walking the four miles to Waxahachie in the morning to get the dirty laundry and washing all day when this meant carrying water and wood to burn for fuel. After four years of this, she vowed to improve her condition and moved to Chicago where her older brothers lived. She attended a manicurist school for about one month and was then installed in the window of the White Sox Barbershop where her good looks attracted the maximum attention and clientele.
One of her brothers who returned from France after the war told her the women in her neighborhood would never be able to fly planes like the women in France. That was all Bessie needed to hear. Flying had been a lifelong dream of hers. She began a campaign among her well heeled gentlemen friends, both black and white, to contribute to her receiving flying lessons in France. Apparently Bessie was persuasive, indeed as she was soon studying French and preparing for her trip.
Bessie soon became a role model, not only for blacks and women, but for others who admired her tenacity and endurance. She barnstormed, performed sky stunts and flew crop dusters to earn money to establish her own flying school. Never adverse to publicity, Bessie designed a military costume and shaved 4 or 5 years off her real age.
An investigation revealed a wrench left carelessly behind which became lodged in the controls.
© Janet Crain
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