Texas Archival Resources Online


TABLE OF CONTENTS


Overview

Biographical Note

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Arrangement of the Collection

Restrictions

Administrative Information

Description of Series

Biographical and Family History

Correspondence

Professional Activities

Writings and Publications

Printed Materials

Scrapbooks

Photographs

Audio/Visual Materials

Ephemera

Oversized Items

Texas Woman's University, the Woman's Collection

Jean Ross Howard Phelan Papers

An Inventory to the Collection



Overview

Creator: Phelan, Jean Ross Howard, 1916-2004.
Title: Jean Ross Howard Phelan Papers
Date: 1869-2006
Abstract: Includes personal and business correspondence, writings, scrapbooks, photographs, and ephemera from an aviation pioneer who, in 1955, founded the Whirly-Girls, an international organization of women helicopter pilots.
Location: MSS 825
Size: 6 cubic feet.
Repository Texas Woman's University, the Woman's Collection

Biographical Note

Jean Ross Howard was born on September 5, 1916, to a prominent family in Washington, D.C. where her grandfather, John W. Ross, was also commissioner of the District. She was raised in the D.C. area and attended the Sidwell Friends School and Western High School. After transferring from Connecticut College, Jean graduated from George Washington University in 1939 with a bachelor's degree in history. The summer months of her college years were spent touring Europe with her mother.

After her graduation, Jean declined a salaried government job to enter the Civilian Pilot Training Program. She earned her pilot's license in 1941 and worked briefly as a reservationist at Eastern Air Lines and as a pilot-secretary for Taylorcraft demonstrating lightweight planes to the military. After hearing Jacqueline Cochran give a recruitment speech for the Women Airforce Service Pilots, Jean signed up in 1943; however, she did not complete the training. From 1943 to 1945, Jean worked as a program director on the Italian island of Capri for the American Red Cross.

In 1945, Jean began her long career at Aircraft Industries Association (later the Aerospace Industries Association, or AIA). Hired as a staff assistant to the public relations director, she retired in 1986 as director of helicopter activities. Jean also continued her private aviation endeavors, competing in the 1951 and 1952 Transcontinental Air Races and becoming actively involved in the Personal Aircraft Council. In 1955, Jean completed her master's degree in Transportation at American University with her thesis "Selected Economic Problems in the Operation of Common Carrier Helicopters." She was also the first woman chair of the American Helicopter Society's Annual Forum, hosting forums in both 1958 and 1959, and served as chair of the 1962 Wright Day Memorial Dinner. In 1963, Jean was presented with the Washington Air Derby Association Trophy for her contributions to the Washington, D.C. aviation community. She was also elected president of the American Women's News Club from 1966 to 1968 and was awarded the prestigious Lady Drummond Hay Trophy, granted by the Women's International Association of Aeronautics in 1969.

In 1954, while working as an assistant in the helicopter division at AIA, Jean persuaded her supervisor to allow her to complete training at the Bell Helicopter School in Fort Worth, Texas. Jean became the eighth American woman, and the thirteenth woman in the world, to receive her helicopter pilot rating. In 1955, Jean helped establish the Whirly-Girls, an organization for female helicopter pilots. Initially composed of thirteen women from the United States, France, and Germany, the group grew to over 1,200 members in 41 countries by 2004. Jean was also an important advocate for establishing heliports for emergency medical services and traveled around the country promoting the Whirly-Girls and the helicopter industry. For these efforts, she was presented with the first Whirly-Girls Livingston Award in 1988. Jean was an honorary fellow of the American Helicopter Society and a member of the Ninety-Nines, the Federal Aviation Agency's Women Advisory Council, and the Helicopter Association of America (HAA). In 2003, Jean was named as one of the "100 Women Who Made A Difference" by Women in Aviation, International in honor of the centennial anniversary of flight.

In June 1986, she married James Phelan, a World War II pilot who was involved in the first helicopter combat rescue mission while serving in the Pacific. James later served as president of the Whirly-Girls Men's Auxiliary. On January 29, 2004, Jean passed away in Washington, D.C., at age 87.

References

Jean Ross Howard Phelan Papers, MSS 825, Texas Woman's University.

Whirly-Girls Collection, MSS 664, Texas Woman's University.

Sullivan, Patricia. "Jean Ross Howard Phelan Dies at 87; One of First Female Helicopter Pilots." Washington Post, 5 February 2004, page B06.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The papers of Jean Ross Howard Phelan document the life of a female aviation pioneer and one of the founding members of the Whirly-Girls, an international organization for female helicopter pilots. Her correspondence demonstrates her activity within the aviation community through letters with military and government officials, people in the commercial aviation industry, and members of the Whirly-Girls, the Ninety-Nines, the Personal Aircraft Council, the FAA Women's Advisory Committee, Bell Helicopter, and other aviation organizations.

The collection includes Jean's own scrapbooks documenting her public activities as president of the Whirly-Girls, an executive at Aircraft Industries Association, president of the American Women's Newspaper Club, and participation in aviation-related events. The collection also contains many of Jean's publications in several magazines and newsletters, her M.A. thesis on the helicopter industry, and her book All About Helicopters.

A portion of the collection also features programs and photographs from a variety of social, political, and aviation events and news clippings featuring Jean, the Whirly-Girls, female pilots, and aviation. An audio cassette of a public radio programs features the Whirly-Girls and an interview with Jean; other materials include personal ephemera and Whirly-Girls merchandise.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Series 1: Biographical and Family History
Series 2: Correspondence
Series 3: Professional Activities
Series 4: Writings and Publications
Series 5: Printed Materials
Series 6: Scrapbooks
Series 7: Photographs
Series 8: Audio/Visual Materials
Series 9: Ephemera
Series 10: Oversized Items

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Restrictions

Access to Collection:

Researchers may access the Jean Ross Howard Phelan Collection Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in the Woman's Collection. The Woman's Collection is located on the second floor of the Blagg-Huey Library. All materials are viewed in the Catherine Merchant Reading Room, and photocopies are provided at the discretion of the Woman's Collection.

Publication and Copyright Statements:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the Coordinator for Special Collections.

All responsibility for questions of copyright that may arise in copying, scanning, and use of material shall be assumed by the user.

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Administrative Information

Provenance

The Jean Ross Howard Phelan Collection was a gift of the Whirly-Girls, International and Pam Binkley, her step-daughter, 2007.

Encoded by:

Leslie Lindsey, 2007

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Detailed Description of the Collection

 

Biographical and Family History

Box Folder
1 1 Biography 1986, n.d. / 6 items.
Biographical profiles from Aerospace Industries Association of America and a press release announcing Jean's retirement as Director of Helicopter Activities in 1986.

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Correspondence

Box Folder
1 2 Andre, Valerie, WG #6, 1985-1986, 1993, n.d. / 7 items.
Includes Whirly-Girls press releases regarding the 1993 Livingston Award to Valerie, a 1985 letter from Valerie about Jean's travel arrangements to the Paris Air Show, a congratulatory letter from Valerie on Jean's marriage to Jim Phelan, and an undated postcard about an article Jean had published.
3 Bell Helicopter 1953, 1974, 1953, 1956, 1970, and 1974 / 5 items.
Includes letters arranging Jean's 1953 training for her helicopter license and other professional correspondence regarding complimentary tours, and a congratulatory note about an editorial Jean had published.
4 Carter, Anne Shaw, WG #2. 1990 / 1 item.
Postcard from 1997 inviting Jean for a visit to Connecticut.
5 FAA Women's Advisory Council / 1964, n.d. / 2 items.
Telegram dated February 29, 1964 from Janey Hart inviting Jean to join the newly-established Women's Advisory Council on Aviation.
6 Gokcen, Sabiha 1953-1954 / 20 items.
Contains letters pertaining to Major Gokcen's visit from Turkey to the United States in 1953.
7 Lady Hay Drummond Award / 1969 / 31 items.
Letters congratulating Jean on being honored by the Women's International Association of Aeronautics. Includes notes and telegrams from members of the Whirly-Girls, the Ninety-Nines, and aviation officials.
8 Personal Aircraft Council and Aircraft Industries Association 1946-1947, 1956, 1958, 1962, n.d. / 40 items.
Bulk of the correspondence is in regard to a 1946 "Color Cruise" for the aviation community that Jean helped to plan.
9 Pilurs, Tracy - 1991-1993 / 11 items.
Pilurs was commissioned to do a series of portraits of the first women helicopter pilots, which were later donated to the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
10 Reitsch, Kurt - 1979,1982 / 2 items.
Letter dated 1979 from a family member of Hanna Reitsch, WG #1, about her death, and a short note from 1982.
11 Ross Family - 1869, 1937, 1944, 1950, 1968-1969, 2001, 2006, n.d. / 12 items.
Includes a 1869 prescription for a "Miss Murchison" from "P.C. Ross, Druggist and Apothecary, Canton, Ill." for "Ferri Iodidi Syrupus." Also contains a grandstand ticket to the 1937 coronation of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and a songbook from Georgette Ross Howard, and personal correspondence from distant relatives.
12 Short, Julia A. -1963-1966 / 80 items.
Contains correspondence about the promotion of the helicopter industry, the installation and use of heliports at airports and hospitals, and airport beautification.
13 Sportscar Press and Publishers - 1968-1969,1971,1994 / 41 items.
Correspondence pertaining to Jean's book, All About Helicopters.
14 Whirly-Girls - 1955, 1957, 1963-1970, 1973-1974, 1977 / 50 items.
Includes letters about the founding of the Whirly-Girls, Jean's early efforts at promoting the organization, group tours to various aviation and helicopter- related facilities, recruitment, merchandising, professional ceremonies and events including "hoverings," and other internal business matters.
15 Whirly-Girls - 1980-1982, 1984, 1986-1987, 1988-1993, 1995, 1997-2000, n.d. / 48 items.
Includes correspondence regarding "hoverings" and other meetings, museum exhibits and awards ceremonies honoring the Whirly-Girls, and other organization-related issues.
16 Whirly-Girls Birth Announcements - 1969-1970, 1975-1976 / 13 items.
Jean's replies to the newborn children of various Whirly-Girls and invitations for the infants to join the organization in sixteen years.
17 Whirly-Girls Russian Delegation - 1979, 1990, n.d. / 16 items.
Contains correspondence from Jean's efforts to include Soviet women in the organization, and their eventual inclusion in 1990.
18 Whirly-Girls Men's Auxiliary -1966, 1973, 1981, 1984, 1993, 1999, n.d. / 27 items.
Contains correspondence to the Men's Auxiliary, founded in 1971 by Tom Stuelpnagel , president of the American Helicopter Society and Hughes Helicopter to support the Whirly-Girls scholarship fund.
19 Whirly-Girls Scholarship Applications - 1981 / 4 items.
20 Miscellaneous Personal Correspondence - 1949, 1953, 1966, 1968-1969, 1982, 1988, 1993-1994, 1996-1997, 2000, n.d. / 51 items.
Contains personal correspondence with friends and Jean's address contact lists.
21 Miscellaneous Business Correspondence - 1943, 1952, 1957, 1963-1964, 1967-1968, 1971, 1973, 1980, 1992, 2003, n.d. / 26 items.
Includes a letter of recommendation from Gerald C. Gross, Lieutenant Commander in the United States Naval Reserve, 1943; professional correspondence with executives at Delta Air Lines and Eastern Air Lines; letters pertaining to Jean's efforts to establish hospital heliports; notes from James Doolittle and Senator A.S. Mike Monroney about the Wright Memorial Dinner that Jean hosted in 1962; and letters of invitation to various awards ceremonies and professional functions.

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Professional Activities

Box Folder
1 22 Aviation Licenses and Memberships - 1951, 1953-1954, 1963, 1976 / 8 items.
Includes membership cards for Federation Aeronautique Internationale and the Helicopter Club of Great Britain, as well as Jean's private pilot's license and helicopter training certificate.
23 Grasshopper Record - 1941-1944 / 72 items.
Includes letters from Personal Aircraft Council industry executives John E.P. Morgan and W.T. Piper and United States military officials Robert A. Lovett, Sam L. Ellis, >Walter Krueger, John J. McCloy, and Richard T. Coiner, Jr. regarding the use of light planes during the war. Jean worked for the Council demonstrating the planes to the military.
24 Women Airforce Service Pilots - 1943, 1982, n.d. / 6 items.
Includes a report from May 1943 from the "Washed Out Pilot's Society" and Jean's formal military discharge papers.
25 American Red Cross - 1944, 1946, n.d. / 3 items.
Contains a recommended packing list, a 1944 letter of commendation, and an Overseas Service Certificate dated 1946.
26 Civil Air Patrol - 1949, 1951-1953, 2000 / 12 items.
Includes Jean's certificate of appointment as a second lieutenant in 1949.
27 Radio Operators - 1947, n.d. / 4 items.
28 Helicopter Training Manuals. n.d. / 3 items.
29 Ninety-Nines - 1959, 1969, 1990, 1993, n.d. / 10 items.
30 The Flying Turtles - 1952 / 1 item.
31 Twirly-Birds - 1967, 2002 / 4 items.
32 Whirly-Girls Songbooks and Lyrics -1957, n.d. / 6 items.
33 Whirly-Girls Budgets and Membership - 1990-1991, n.d. / 2 items.
34 Whirly-Girls Men's Auxiliary - 1995-1996 / 3 items.
35 HAA Public Relations Advisory Committee - 1980-1981 / 9 items.
36 Junior League - 1984, n.d. / 2 items.
Remarks by Nancy Lee McKay addressing the Provisional Class, February 29, 1984, in Tampa, Florida.
37 Aviation Events - 1946, 1948-1949, 1954, 1968, 1971-1972, 1986, 1993 / 13 items.

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Writings and Publications

Box Folder
1 38 Articles and Speeches - 1958, 1975, 1977, 1991, 1994-1996, n.d. / 22 items.
Articles and speeches prepared by Jean.
39 "Selected Economic Problems in the Operation of Helicopters" - 1956 / 1 item.
Thesis for M.A. from American University.
40 "Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl" n.d. / 1 item.
Short play.
41 Drafts for Publications - 1992-1994, n.d. / 10 items.
42 All About Helicopters n.d. / 1 item.
Draft and author revisions to Jean's book.

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Printed Materials

Box Folder
2 1 Army Air Forces Radio Program Script and Poem - 1944 / 1 item.
Broadcast from an Army Air Force rest camp in Capri.
2 News Clippings: Ross Family - 1968-1971 / 15 items.
3 News Clippings: Jean Ross Howard Phelan -1947-1949, 1953-1954, 1957, 1959, 1963, 1965-1969, 1970, 1979, 1990, 1994, 2004, 2006, n.d. / 47 items.
4 News Clippings: Civil Air Patrol - 1951 / 3 items.
5 News Clippings: Whirly-Girls - 1949, 1954, 1956-1957, 1961-1963, 1969-1970, 1987, 1993, 1998, 2005, n.d. / 30 items.
6 Articles: Whirly-Girls - 1956, 1962, 1967-1968, 1979, 1984, 1987, 1991, 1993, 1998 / 16 items.
7 News Clippings: Women Helicopter Pilots - 1964, 1974, 2000, n.d. / 4 items.
8 News Clippings: Women in Aviation - 1953, 1958, 1964-1965, 1969, 1974, 1993, 2001 / 11 items.
9 Printed Materials: Helicopters and Aviation Industry - 1948, 1951, 1961, 1965, 1967-1968, 1973, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1990, 1992, 1998 / 27 items.
Includes professional newsletters, magazines, and pamphlets related to the helicopter and aviation industry.
10 Directories: Helicopters and Aviation Industry - 1967, 1968, 1982, 1983 / 4 items.
11 "Bringing Aerodynamics to America" by Paul A. Hanle. - 1982 / 1 item.
12 "The How of the Helicopter" by David Cooke and "Helicopters That Made History" by Alfred A. Stephens, Jr. - 1946, 1963 / 2 items.

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Scrapbooks

Box
3 Scrapbook I - 1938-1954, n.d. / 2 photos.
Includes news clippings, correspondence, invitations, programs, and photographs regarding Jean's society debut, WASP training, and her positions with the Civil Air Patrol, Red Cross, Personal Aircraft Council, and the Aircraft Industries Association. Also contains her radio operator license.
Scrapbook 2 - 1946-1952, n.d. / 16 photos.
Includes news clippings, correspondence, invitations, programs, and photographs related to Jean's postwar activities, including the 1951 Transcontinental Air Race and aviation and political events in Washington, D.C.
Scrapbook 3 - 1953-1955, n.d. / 36 photos.
Includes news clippings, correspondence, invitations, and programs, along with materials regarding the visit of Turkish female combat pilot Major Sabina Gokcen in 1953.
Scrapbook 4 - 1957-1958, n.d. / 2 photos.
Includes news clippings, announcements, invitations, programs, photographs, and congratulatory correspondence regarding Jean's 1957 fellowship from the American Helicopter Society as well as being the first woman to chair the association's annual forum in 1958.
Scrapbook 5 - 1967-1968, n.d.
Includes news clippings, correspondence, invitations, and programs regarding Jean's presidency of the American Newspaper Women's Club.
Guestbook - 1977-1989.
Jean's personal guestbook. Visitors include Faith Buchner Richards, WG #74, Dora Dougherty Strother, WG #27, Lauretta Foy, WG #46, and Fay Gillis Wells.
Loose Scrapbook Sheets - 1934-1958, n.d. / 15 photos.
Includes various photographs, postcards, news clippings, and correspondence.

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Photographs

Box Folder
4 1 Ross Family and Friends n.d. / 16 items.
2 Ross, Sikorsky, and Bell Family Event ca. 1950s / 7 items.
3 Civil Air Patrol n.d. / 8 items.
4 Campaigning for Eisenhower and Nixon 1952 / 12 items.
5 First Whirly-Girl Day - 1959 / 3 items.
6 Whirly-Girls Photo Shoot for Parade Magazine - 1962 / 2 items.
7 Washington Air Derby AssociationTrophy Presentation - 1963 / 4 items.
8 American Newspaper Women's Club Reception for Ambassador to China - 1963 / 1 item.
9 Whirly-Girls Tour Bell Helicopter, Fort Worth, Texas - 1964 / 15 items.
10 10th Annual Whirly-Girls "Hovering", Washington, D.C. - 1965 / 7 items.
Includes visit to the White House and a group photograph with Lady Bird Johnson.
11 8th Annual Honors Luncheon of the Army Aviation Association of America - 1966 / 5 items.
12 Jessie R. "Ma" Chamberlain Tea - 1969 / 10 items.
Jean was awarded the Lady Drummond Hay Trophy.
13 World Helicopter Championship, Middle Wallop, England - 1971, 1973, 1978 / 52 items.
14 Judy Short Memorial Hospital Helicopter Certificate, Tampa, Florida - 1974 / 18 items.
15 Hughes Brunch, HAA Convention - 1978 / 1 item.
16 Paris Air Show - 1983 / 5 items.
17 Hughes Brunch, HAA Convention, Las Vegas, Nevada - 1984 / 30 items.
18 Whirly-Girls 30th Anniversary, Washington D.C. - 1985 / 18 items.
Jean was presented with a handmade quilt from the Whirly-Girls.
19 HAA Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana - 1985 / 37 items.
20 Women in Aviation, International Luncheon - 1985 / 2 items.
21 Whirly-Girls Scholarship Awards Ceremony - 1986 / 29 items.
22 Whirly-Girls Scholarship Awards Ceremony, Dallas, Texas. - 1987 / 4 items.
23 Whirly-Girls Exhibit Dedication, Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C. - 1987 / 12 items.
24 Whirly-Girls Awards Ceremony, New Orleans, Louisiana - 1989 / 6 items.
Jean received the Livingston Award.
Box Folder
5 1 Miscellaneous Photographs of Jean Ross Howard Phelan - 1962, 1966, 1973-1975, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1990, 1995, 2000, n.d. / 22 items.
Miscellaneous photographs of Jean at various events, including "mini-hoverings" and professional functions.
2 Miscellaneous Photographs of Jean Ross Howard Phelan n.d. / 110 items.
Miscellaneous photographs of Jean. Date and location unknown.
3 Whirly-Girls - 1959, 1961, 1969, 1986, 1994, 1997, n.d. / 29 items.
Photographs of Whirly-Girls at various functions. Includes the 1959 dedication of the New York Port Authority's heliport by Doris Renninger, WG #59, and Janey Hart, WG #25, Dora Dougherty Strother, WG #27, honored by Bell Helicopter for two world flight records in 1961; and other member portraits.
4 Ceremony Honoring Dr. Christine Bauer, WG #514 - 1994 / 18 items.
Dr. Bauer reached 1,000 helicopter flight hours.

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Audio/Visual Materials

Box Folder
5 5 Audio Cassettes n.d. / 1 item.
Interview on National Public Radio program "Horizons" featuring the Whirly-Girls and an interview with Jean.
6 "Ciao, Elicottepo!" by Antonella Lualdi - 1982 / by 1 item.
45" record from Italy.
7 Movie Reel. - June, 1956 / 1 item.
Unidentified.

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Ephemera

Box Folder
5 8 Desk Nameplate / 1 item.
From Bell Helicopter.
9 Stickers and Patches / 13 items.
From the World Helicopter Championships and the Whirly-Girls organization.

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Oversized Items

Box
6 "Souvenir Edition of the Michigan Aviation October Color Cruise" - 1946
Printed by the Michigan Flying Reporter.
Photograph of Ninety-Nines Annual Convention - 1951
Photograph of 22nd annual convention attendees outside the Grand Hotel, Michigan.
Scrapbook - 1962-1965 / 11 items.
Includes news clippings, speeches, and correspondence regarding the aviation industry and fellow Whirly-Girls.
Photograph of Whirly-Girls "Hovering" at HAA Convention, Dallas, Texas - 1966
Jean is holding the Whirly-Girls logo.
Whirly-Girls "Millennial Hovering" Plaque - 2000
Presented to Jean at the annual "hovering" in January 2000 at Las Vegas, Nevada.
Itinerary for Texas Trip n.d.
Schedule for week-long trip in August to Northeast Texas, Austin, Corpus Christi, Houston, and Dallas/Fort Worth.
Framed Photograph n.d.
Presented to Jean by the Marine Helicopter Squadron One.

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