Fights for equality are a part of American history. Future generations, though, won’t know about the more obscure ones without books like Sarah Rickman’s biography, B.J. Erickson: WASP Pilot, which tells the story of women pilots serving the USA during World War II. WASP pilots were the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots. They were civilians, contributing hugely to the military efforts.
Rickman shows us Erickson’s journey through training programs, qualifying on one flight after another. Only one student in ten made it into the Civilian Pilot Training Program in 1939, so Erickson and her fellow women pilots became role models as well as symbols, doing their jobs with integrity and professionalism.
Just as Rosie the Riveter and her compatriots prepped the planes, female flyers freed men to do battle, transporting them from Oakland or Long Beach to the East Coast. The importance of gender diminished as the need for workers dominated everything else during World War II. Americans of all genders, races, creeds, and walks of life had a common goal: defeat the enemy before we became subjected to his will.
In addition to shining a light on a little known pilot, Rickman’s book also demonstrates the research techniques that go into biographies. In addition to the story, she includes a list of acronyms and abbreviations, a timeline of Erickson’s life, a list of aircraft flown by Erickson, a separate list of her honors and awards, a glossary, photography sources, a bibliography, and acknowledgements.
If you are a librarian or teacher who is considering this book, it will touch the potential pilots, historians, engineers, researchers, writers, and dreamers in your classroom, school, or community. It will trigger questions and ideas and help move a new generation forward. Highly recommended for sixth graders and above.