Who are Nancy Wake and Jackie Cochran?
After catching the last few minutes of “The Right Stuff” this morning, I went to Wikipedia to find out the name of the astronaut one of my brothers met (it was Sparta, WI native Deke Slayton). As usually happens on Wikipedia, one search led to another. I ended up taking two paths through the site. The first went: The Right Stuff – Chuck Yeager - Maquis - Nancy Wake. The other path went: The Right Stuff – Chuck Yeager - Jackie Cochran.
Who were Nancy Wake and Jackie Cochran? Good question. I had never heard of either until today (as an aside, I don’t really want to advocate for “herstory” classes – but I do wish little girls were taught about women like this). Wake is an Aussie woman who was the Allies' most decorated servicewoman in WWII. She was a member of the French resistance and at one time had a 5-million franc price on her head. She escaped from France, ended up in England and then parachuted back into France in April 1944 and helped lead resistance activity prior to the Normandy invasion:
From April 1944 to the complete liberation of France, her 7000 maquisards fought 22,000 SS soldiers, causing 1400 casualties. Her French companions, especially Henri Tardivat, praised her fighting spirit; amply demonstrated when she killed an SS sentry with her bare hands to prevent him raising the alarm during a raid. During a 1990s television interview, when asked what had happened to the sentry who spotted her, Wake simply drew her finger across her throat. On another occasion, in order to replace codes her wireless operator had been forced to destroy in a German raid, Nancy Wake rode a bicycle for more than 100 miles through several German checkpoints.
Cochran was an American aviator and race pilot. She was considered the best female pilot in America and was a contemporary and good friend of Yeager. In WWII, she flew bombers to England before the U.S. officially entered the war. Eventually she was made the head of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) where she helped trained over 1,000 women pilots. After the war, she achieved a number of firsts (the first woman to land and take off from an aircraft carrier, the first pilot to make a blind instrument landing, the first woman to reach Mach 2, the first pilot to fly above 20,000 feet with an oxygen mask). To this day she “holds more distance and speed records than any pilot living or dead, male or female”.
These are the kind of women I admire. Their accomplishments were made in spite of poverty, hardships, heartbreak and prejudice. Contrast them with Hillary Clinton (you knew I was going there, right?). What exactly has she accomplished? Oh sure, she got elected to the Senate, but what has she done with that position, other than position herself for a run at the Presidency?
I would love to have a female President. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel some feminine pride when reading the accomplishments of Wake and Cochran. But, I want a woman in the White House that I can respect. I want a great woman. Heck, I want great men in office too. Should we settle for less just to play identity politics? I hope not.
Posted by at March 2, 2008 03:13 PM
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|# March 3rd, 2008 3:49 PM kris|
|The New Zealand people I work with haven't heard of Wake either (she was born there). |