21.3.16

Who is She? 16-Hazel Ying Lee

Hazel Ying Lee was born in 1912 in Portland Oregon. Her parents were immigrants from China. She was a pioneering woman in aviation, being one of the very first women to fly fighter planes for the US military's WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and one of the first women to offer her flight services to the government of China during World War 2 at a time when the Japanese were invading China. Hazel started her flight training at a young age and received her pilots license at 19 being one of the first Chinese American women to obtain such a license. After she was rejected as a fighter pilot (because she was a woman) she flew commercial planes in China, and then returned to the US after the attack at Pearl Harbor to enlist in the newly formed women's airforce. She flew planes that accompanied newly built bombers and fighters and faced some challenges as women were not given the full benefits of male pilots and were not treated as air force officers, but as civilians. It wasnt until the late 70s after much fighting that the women were recognized as military personnel. Hazel died as her plane collided with another during a routine trip, but she inspired many of her fellow pilots and a generation of young Asian American women and women of all races. The first time I heard of Hazel and any Chinese American women who were pilots was at the NYC Museum of Chinese Americans.
Sources: hazelyinglee.com/main.html (Site), Wikipedia (site), www.mocanyc.org

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