Dorothy Scott: Pioneering Aviatrix
Dorothy Faeth Scott was born in 1920 in Oroville, Washington, a twin to her brother Ed, and a younger sister to their elder brother Don. Her father, Guthrie “G.M.” Scott, and mother, Katherine, married in Seattle in 1913. Three years after the wedding, their first son came along, Donald. At that time, G.M. ran a fishing business between Alaska and Seattle and the family lived on the boat with him. However, when Katherine got pregnant the second time, they moved to Seattle to settle down. It was here that G.M., ever the hopeful businessman, saw an ad for a Ford motorcar dealership in Oroville. It was when G.M. decided to build a new airport that Dorothy’s life changed forever.
G.M. installed a fuel pump at his airstrip and hosted an air show that made all the papers near and far. Sadly, he never learned to fly himself. At the time he didn’t know it, but flying wasn’t his adventure to have. It was Dorothy’s.
A blonde tomboy and a leader in her high school class, Dorothy graduated in 1937. She went straight to the University of Washington where she swam and played intramural basketball. She got certified in first aid and lifesaving and was originally a nursing major. It was in the summer of 1942 that she earned her flight instructor’s rating and went on to join the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) later that fall.
The letters in this collection are assorted letters sent from Dorothy to various members of her family including her father, mother, twin brother, and older brother as well as a potential sister-in-law. These letters and postcards detail her experiences as she explored the skies as one of 25 WAFS. Unfortunately, these letters only detail so much because she died in a regrettable accident in December of 1943, cutting short a two-year anniversary of activity in her field.
As Natasha S. Mauthner and Judit Gárdos mention in “Archival Practices and the Making of ‘Memories,’” Derrida and postmodern thought look at archival practice as a socially constructed way to produce knowledge of the past and shape the way we remember certain people or events. In “Critical Feminism in the Archives,” Derrida is quoted as defining archivization as “simultaneously a technical process of archiving something, but...also a means of constructing static meaning around a set of texts” (Cifor 15). I tried my best to remember that the letters I worked with during this process are taken out of the context they were written in. As much as it would be simple to neatly put these letters into a folder labeled “Feminist WAFS, women who flew planes,” I think it’s important to really look closely at how Dorothy might have described herself instead of how we might describe her. All we have to formulate this speculation with is her letters and the various things she left behind. What I did with the responsibility of continuing her story, I did with Derrida’s quote in mind. I don’t want Dorothy’s story set into a static buzz; I want you to interact with her digital collection with one thing in mind: Dorothy’s own voice.
Both the collection of letters in the women’s collection here and Sarah Byrn Rickman’s book, Finding Dorothy Scott are valuable pieces of history that we are proud to share with our community. Highlighting some of the best characteristics of WAFS and WASP history, Dorothy Scott as we know her through her letters and postcards was an exciting, enthusiastic, adventure-seeking girl who never shied away from the challenges around her. A great example to women of her time and women from our own, I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to interact with Dorothy by reading through the letters she wrote during the most exciting time of her life. I hope that you will enjoy this collection as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
Rickman, Sarah Byrn. Finding Dorothy Scott: Letters of a WASP Pilot. Texas Tech University Press, 2016.
TWU Woman’s Collection, MSS #600c Scott, Dorothy