The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post 26 posts, one for each letter of the English alphabet, in April. Most of us choose to make these posts on a particular theme. My theme for 2023 is 1943 Washington D.C., the setting of the novel that I’m writing. Visit daily in April for a new post on my topic.
K is for Sister Mary Aquinas Kinskey
Sister Mary Aquinas Kinskey was the real Flying Nun.
As a teacher in the 1930s, she followed her students’ interests by developing her own enthusiasm for aviation. She became a licensed pilot and taught aerodynamics and meteorology at a high school in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
In the summer of 1943, Sister Mary Aquinas Kinskey accepted a government assignment to teach aviation at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. She taught fellow teachers so that they could return to their classrooms with a curriculum and background to teach aviation to their students.
At least three articles appeared in the Washington Post in the spring of 1943 about Sister Mary Aquinas Kinskey — two of them used “Flying Nun” in the headline.
Here are a couple of quotes from the first article to explain the program.
Conscious of the urge of American youth for knowledge of aerial navigation–both military and civil–Catholic University’s summer program is designed to equip teachers to instruct classes in preflight aeronautics in high schools with the accompanying courses in radio and communication.
The schedule for the summer is divided into two parts and includes instruction in aircraft structure, aerodynamics, engines, rules and regulations for pilots and theory of flight, with meteorology, navigation, radio and communications, as well as excursions to neighborhood laboratories and airfields so far as possible under the military restrictions imposed by the war.
The June 1 article in the Washington Post was drawn from an interview with Sister Mary Aquinas Kinskey, so we get to hear her delightful voice.
She endeavored to learn her subject matter so thoroughly because “It’s hard to fool the American boy.”
She reported that her robes didn’t interfere with her flying.
She impressed the reporter with the authoritative manner in which she talked about specific planes:
I have always been very fond of the P-40. I am glad to see the P-47 coming up now that they’ve ironed all the bugs.
Did you know that there was a real Flying Nun, more than twenty years before Sally Field took the role in the sitcom of that name?
The reason we have such great photographs of Sister Mary Aquinas Kinsey is because the photographer Ann Rosener, working for the United States Office of War Information, trailed the Flying Nun at Catholic University and the Washington National Airport in June 1943. Earlier in Rosener’s career, she worked for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression. Hundreds of her photos are available, in the public domain, from the Library of Congress. Click on the photos, above, to get to the original records at the Library of Congress.
The quotes about the Catholic University program are from this article:
Franciscan sister to direct catholic U. air age studies. (1943, May 02). The Washington Post (1923-1954) Retrieved from https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/franciscan-sister-direct-catholic-u-air-age/docview/151575070/se-2
The interview quotes are from this article:
Flying nun takes over classes in aeronautics at catholic U. (1943, Jun 01). The Washington Post (1923-1954) Retrieved from https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/flying-nun-takes-over-classes-aeronautics-at/docview/151639065/se-2
If you don’t have access to the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database (my access comes with my St. Louis County Library card), these two free articles provide helpful information about Sister Mary Aquinas Kinskey: