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March 10, 2016

Why is Canada's First Female Pilot being ignored by Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame?

Because March is Women's History Month I wanted to share with my readers the story of strong and courageous women in my life. You will be able to follow along as you wish by choosing the label "Women of Courage" in the right side bar. I encourage my readers to join me in honoring women of courage in your own families.
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."

Ten years later, Eileen's name is still not found. Why is this amazing Canadian female being ignored by Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame?


Tom Appleton said...

As 2015/16 Chair of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame I am saddened to learn that you feel that the nomination of Eilleen Vollick, your third cousin, was ignored by the Hall’s Nomination Review Committee for ten years; this conclusion is just not supported by the facts of the case.

In fact, Eilleen’s file was certainly not ignored. She was nominated twice for Membership in the Hall and under the rules governing those who are not accepted in any one year, the nomination is reconsidered four more times. Nomination files are reviewed annually by a neutral body of notable Canadian aviation people, both men and women who, based on the evidence at hand did not select Eilleen’s name for recommendation to the Board for induction in those years. The decision in any year in the future might be different, depending upon the quality of the nominations submitted.

The competition for nomination to the Hall is strong, as it should be, otherwise membership would not be so eagerly sought. Many very worthy Canadians (and some non-Canadians, by the way) are nominated each year and the Nomination Review Committee judges each nomination solely on its merit, based upon the committee’s review of the candidate’s contribution to aviation in Canada. Only three or four are accepted for membership in any year, this being the maximum number practical for honouring at our Annual Induction Gala.
I should also mention that neither the Chairman, not the Board of Directors play any part in the selection process beyond approving, or rejecting, the Review Committee’s recommendations.

CAHF rules permit any candidate to be nominated a total of three times. Ms. Vollick has been nominated twice so she is eligible for one final nomination. Nominators are strongly advised to read the nomination guidelines on our web site very carefully and to follow them precisely in presenting a new nomination. The deadline for new nominations is 31 May. Please refer to our website for more information:

Thank you for your strong interest in Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame – we need more such publicly spirited aviation enthusiasts such as you to take an interest in the country’s amazing history in aviation and space accomplishments. Good luck on your re-nomination of Eileen Vollick.

Tom Appleton

Linda said...

Above comment is a long explanation that means nothing!
The simple fact that Ms. Vollick was the FIRST woman pilot in Canada and continued her flying career should have been enough to get her in the First time she was nominated.
Keep pushing Lorene, this is ridiculous!!!

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Tom, While I appreciate your taking the time to read my post and leave your thoughts, I take exception to the implication that our nomination didn't follow the "nomination guidelines."

Your statement "The decision in any year in the future might be different, depending upon the quality of the nominations submitted." is insulting

The implication you made is that our nomination was not a "quality" nomination. We are genealogists who are experienced in accuracy of facts, resolution of ambiguities in facts, relevancy of details, organization of facts found and presentation of those facts. I believe our 2005 nomination of Eileen Vollick was a quality submission and to suggest otherwise is simply a diversionary tactic on the part of CAHF.

I assure you we read, and followed, the guidelines very carefully.

Second - IF that WERE true that we messed up our submission, then why did the email from Canada Aviation Hall of Fame (CAHF) state that our nomination would be RECONSIDERED the next year.

One would hope that if we didn't meet the guidelines the committee would have explained that we needed to re-read them and re-submit Eileen's name.

Here is the email we received from the committee:

"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."

So again, it has been 10 years, and still no honouring of the FIRST FEMALE PILOT in Canada. One has to wonder what hidden agenda is being followed by CAHF.

As my previous articles indicate, Eileen has been honoured repeatedly as a significant female contributor to aviation:

* There is a historical plaque in honour of Eileen Vollick at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum at Hamilton Airport.

* In 1978 Eileen was inducted into the International Forest of Friendship in the Memory Lane section of the park. The International Forest of Friendship is a park that honours individuals who have made significant contributions to aviation.

* Through Canada Post’s Picture Postage program, the East Canada Section of the Ninety-Nines created a stamp in Eileen’s honour. First Day covers were issued in Wiarton, Ontario on August 2, 2008.

*The Wiarton Keppel International Airport named the Eileen Vollick Terminal building, on August 2, 2008, the 100th anniversary of Eileen’s birth.

* The First Canadian Chapter posthumously awarded Eileen the Amelia Earhart Medallion in 1975

* The Toronto Aerospace Museum in Downsview features Eileen's accomplishments.

It is long past time for Eileen to be recognized for her accomplishment of being the FIRST FEMALE LICENSED PILOT IN CANADA.

Let's face facts - Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame has deliberately overlooked an important figure in Canadian history - an important FEMALE who broke long-held barriers and empowered women to strive for things long thought outside their ability to achieve. Shame on you.

T said...

It's no different in the U.S. Women are denied burial in any National Cemetery. BUT now that they're cleared to fight in combat it will change. Or will it?

Gena Philibert-Ortega said...

With all due respect Mr. Appleton, I fail to see how the first female pilot in Canada would not be one of the aviators your group would honor. If she is not deserving, than what female pilot is?

Your statement that she can be only be nominated one more time is not only insulting but it makes it appear that your group would rather ignore history because of your rules than properly document it.

History is not a popularity contest.

Gena Philibert-Ortega

Bootsie said...

This letter written by Tom Appleton is a poor representation of the Canadian Aviations Hall of Fame. I fail to understand how the FIRST WOMAN Pilot could not qualify on that instance alone. The rest of her accomplishments also speak to her excellence in the field. Obviously you need to select more informed judges to review the applications. It is further insulting to say she has one last chance at achieving an award that is long overdue. Keep fighting Lorine.