Hazel M. Stamper Hohn: Her moment in time
A stunt pilot, Frank Hawks, unknowingly changed the direction of history for half the world’s population on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 1920. All he did was take a 23-year-old former tomboy who defied normal female behavior for a 10 minute ride in his plane.
“By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly,” exclaimed Amelia Mary Earhart.
When Amelia Earhart was the guest speaker at a junior high school assembly in Bayonne, New Jersey, during the 1934-35 school year, she changed the life of at least one eighth grader, Hazel Marjorie Stamper Hohn.
From that moment forward Hazel learned all she could about flying. She wanted to attend an aeronautical college after graduating from Lincoln High School in June 1939. Unfortunately, her dad insisted she attend secretarial college to become a secretary. Hazel’s heart was not into becoming a secretary, flunking out of business school.
Hazel had several jobs while taking flying lessons before she was 21. She enlisted in the Women Airforce Service Pilot. At Mitchell Field she received the same physical as male pilots.
Hazel wrote, “At one point the doctor had me take off all my clothes and do some aerobic-like exercises. But I’ve always wondered if all WASPs had to do this.”
On Nov. 1, 1943, she reported to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas.
She wrote, “The plan was for the WASPs to take over all flying jobs in the U.S., relieving male pilots for combat.”
WASP students would be sent home if they dated an instructor. The students discovered many good students were “washing out” because there were a couple of instructors who tried to get rid of as many of the students as possible. When those instructors were fired, the excessive washout rate stopped.
From May 23, 1944, until the WASPs were disbanded on Dec. 20, 1944, every day for Hazel was filled with the thrill of flying a different plane to an air base each night. Hazel loved the glamour of being a pilot. She was paid to fly while contributing to win the war. Hazel’s WASP friendships lasted a lifetime.
When Hazel married and became a mother, her two sons and two daughters turned her world 180 degrees. Cleaning house and dusting; preparing and cooking meals; washing clothes, floors, and dishes; four pregnancies and raising children; along with being a wife day after day was not the same as being a WASP. Her moment in time was dressing in her flight clothing and parachute, climbing into a cockpit and taking off into the wild blue yonder free as a bird.
Today’s women have career opportunities because they are standing on the shoulders of the trailblazing women like Hazel Marjorie Stamper Hohn, who passed away on Jan. 15, 2002. Hazel lived in Carson City from 1959 – 1992.
March is Woman’s History Month. I suggest reading at least one book about a woman who contributed to improving your life.
• Ken Beaton is a Carson City resident.