Mary Goodrich Jenson

Mary Goodrich Jenson

Induction Category:
Writers & Journalists

Born: 1907

Died: 2004

Inducted: 2000

Town: Wethersfield

The Wright Brothers made aviation history on December 17, 1903, when their powered aircraft was the first to successfully take flight with a pilot on board. Over the course of the next decades, the aviation industry continued to develop and many other men would earn the title of pilot. Women would also begin to involve themselves in aviation matters by building their own planes and even flying solo. By 1910, a handful of American women had earned pilot’s licenses. In 1927, at the age of 20, Mary Goodrich Jenson joined their ranks, becoming the first woman in Connecticut to earn a pilot’s license.

The daughter of James Goodrich and Ella Reed, Mary Goodrich was born in Hartford in 1907. She was educated at the Collegio Gazzola in Verona, Italy, the Katherine Gibbs School, and Columbia University. From a young age, she had cultivated a love of words. Raised on fairytales, as she grew up she developed a strong taste for journalism. Even while pursuing her pilot’s license, she decided she wanted to be a writer. The Hartford Courant, impressed by the young woman’s perseverance, hired her as its first aviation editor and the “Girl Pilot,” as she was affectionately dubbed, later became the first woman to have a bylined column. She wrote a variety of pieces on notable air stories, including pieces highlighting visits from Amelia Earhart.

The “Girl Pilot” also had a career in advertising and promotion. For a short while, in the late 1930s, she even took a position with Walt Disney Productions in Hollywood, California. It was here that she met her husband, Carl Jenson, with whom she had two children. However, the couple did not stay in California for long. In 1941, they returned to Wethersfield where Jenson served on the Board of Education, the Republican Town Committee, the Council of Social Agencies of Greater Hartford, and as President of the Women’s Association, an organization she also founded.

Throughout her life, Jenson remained a large piece of aviation history. In 1929, a group of women pilots gathered at Curtiss Airport in Vally Stream, N.Y. with the intention of forming an organization that would fight and provide support for women in aviation. This group was named the Ninety-Nines because of its ninety-nine charter members, of which Jenson was one. In 1936, when the Hindenburg flew low over Hartford, Jenson was the only female passenger. She also piloted her own Fairchild KR-21 bi-plane around Connecticut and made history as the first woman to fly solo to Cuba. She was director of the Betsy Ross Corps, a group of female pilots organized to assist in national defense during emergencies. In 1940, she promoted the Women Flyers of America (WFA), a unit of female pilots trained to relieve male pilots for wartime service by ferrying planes from the factories to the airfields and transporting supplies. The WFA motto was, “Airmindedness—for Sport, Profession and Emergency!”

Mary Goodrich Jenson died in Hartford in 2004 at the age of 96.

During This Time
1921 - 1945: Prosperity, Depression, & War