On March 19, 1964, Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock (1925-2014), a 38-year-old, full-time mother of three from Columbus, OH, who had earned her pilot’s license just seven years prior, took off in her single-engine plane on what would be an epic 23,000 mile flight. Twenty-nine days later, on April 18, 1964, Jerrie made history when she touched down at Ohio’s Port Columbus airport, becoming the first woman to fly solo around the world and… the first woman to cross the Atlantic and the Pacific.
Like so many other incredible historic firsts achieved by women, Jerrie’s story has seldom been told. In honor of this woman everyone should know, here are 10 things you should know about Jerrie Mock:
1. Her interest in flying began at just 7 years old when she and her father had the opportunity to fly in the cockpit of a small airplane.
2. Jerrie always dared to be different in search of her own path… “I did not conform to what girls did. What the girls did was boring.”
4. She earned her pilot’s license in 1958 and took part-ownership in a single-engine Cessna 180 airplane, named the “Spirit of Columbus” – the same plane that she took around the world.
5. Mock described herself as “the flying housewife“.
6. At the time she set out to fly solo around the world, Jerrie had been a licensed pilot for seven years, and had never flown farther than the Bahamas.
7. Preparations for her round-the-world flight were accelerated when Jerrie found out that another female pilot, Joan Merriman Smith, was planning a solo flight round-the-world, which created an unintended race to the finish. Spoiler alert: Jerrie won.
8. Two weeks into her history-making flight, Jerrie landed in Saudi Arabia. A crowd of men had gathered, and were confused upon seeing only a woman next to the plane. One shouted there was “no man”, which inspired a “rousing ovation”.
9. In April 2014, just a few months before her death, a bronze life-sized statue of Jerrie, by Renate Burgyan Fackler, was unveiled at the Port Columbus International Airport, OH.
Following her history-making flight around the world, Jerrie went on to set 12 world records, yet few people know of her and her barrier-breaking place in aviation history. Perhaps her lack of spotlight was by Jerrie’s own design… and humility. In a May 2014 interview with Air & Space, she said, “I didn’t think it was such a great thing; it was just lots of fun. It was a good, practical thing that dozens of women, both in the United States and other countries, could have done before I did. You just use your common sense, know how to fly the airplane, do what you’re supposed to do, know the routes and all the rules and regulations. Just nobody else had the sense—or shall I say, the stupidity—to try it [laughs]. There were women who told me that they flew because of me. I’m glad I did what I did, because I had a wonderful time.”
Lead Image: 1964 Press Photo President Johnson awards flier Jerrie Mock with gold medal by Unknown author (Associated Press) –  , Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons