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December 7, 2008

Carnival of Genealogy: Famous Canadian Ancestor Eileen Vollick, first licenced female pilot in Canada

Kathryn at LookingForAncestors Blog had a great idea for the Carnival of Genealogy: My Famous Canadian Ancestor. I've already posted about my circus cousins the Marriott Twins and my cousin who walked Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

Now I want to tell you about my third cousin twice removed, Eileen Vollick (1908-1968) who became the first Canadian woman to obtain a pilot's licence in March 1928. Eileen was related to me in two ways, and was also my 7th cousin twice removed.

"Canada’s first licenced woman pilot was born in Wiarton, Ontario. By the age of 19, she was a textile analyst at the Hamilton Cotton Company and had also won a local beauty contest. She was a spirited girl who had parachuted into Burlington Bay before taking flying lessons. It was 1927. Charles Lindbergh had just flown the Atlantic and Amelia Earhart was beginning to capture the public’s imagination. The diminutive Beach Boulevard resident had already set her sights much higher than anyone could have imagined!

She enrolled in the Flying School owned by Jack V. Elliot at Ghents Crossing on Burlington Bay. The only reservation that her instructor, Len Trip had, was that she was only 5' 1"s and had to use pillows to see out of the cockpit of the ski-equipped Curtiss JN-4 Bi-plane (affectionately known as a "Jenny")

The Comptroller of Civil Aviation issued Eileen a private pilot’s licence #77 on March 13, 1928, the first woman in Canada to qualify as a pilot.

After passing her flight test, she flew in the U.S. and Canada, often demonstrating aerobatic flying which she enjoyed immensely. Shortly afterwards she became Mrs James Hopkin, moved to New York State and raised a family, where she lived until her death in 1968."

A historical plaque in honour of Eileen Vollick, our first licenced woman pilot was unveiled by three members of Eileen’s family, including her husband Mr. James Hopkin. The plaque can be seen at the entrance to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum at Hamilton Airport.

The First Canadian Chapter had previously (posthumously) awarded Eileen with an Amelia Earhart Medallion in 1975 at the occasion of their 25th Anniversary and East Canada Section Fall Meeting.

Eileen is also featured in the 99s East Canada Collection Display at the Toronto Aerospace Museum in Downsview.

In 2005, a several of us who are related to Eileen campaigned to have her admitted to Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame. We were joined in our efforts by thte Canadian 99s and Wiarton Musuem. Although we presented all our research with supporting documentation our nomination of Eileen was denied as:

"The names for the 2006 inductees have been published on our website ( under the "What's New!" heading. My apologises [sic] for not being successful this year with Eileen Vollick's nomination, but it will be reconsidered for next year."

Sadly it is almost 2009 and we have yet to see Eileen's name added.


Kathryn Lake Hogan said...

Greetings Lorine,
Now, I'm just green with envy! I hope Eileen's name will be added to this year's list of inductees to Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame. She deserves to be there! Thanks for telling us about her.

lookingforinfo said...

My son is doing a project on Eileen Vollick, but we can not find how she died anywhere. We are curious as she was quite young and he would like to add it to his report. Thank You

Anonymous said...

what plane did she fly after flight school

Anonymous said...

I am the grandson of Leonard Tripp who instructed Eileen. It would be great to see Eileen in the Hall of Fame with Len!


Anonymous said...

My husband,Daniel Hopkin,is the youngest son of Eileen Vollick's sister.She is 92 & lives in VA.She and Eileen's daughters,Joyce Miles & Jean Barnes were the 3 attending relatives at the Wiarton Airport ceremony.She is also Hopkin because she married Eileen's husband Jame's brother.I believe that Eileen was killed by a drunk driver,not sure of details or what year.We live in Largo,Florida if you would like me to help with your son's project.