gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

Women's History Month: Pamela Freeman

Here’s a forgotten woman of history for you: Mrs Harry Bonney.

Never heard of her? Although that’s the name she preferred, she’s better known as Lores (pron. Lory) Bonney, and she was one of the first great pilots in Australia.

She was the first woman to fly from Australia to London (in 1933) and the first person to fly from Australia to South Africa four years later.

For many years she held the Australian long distance flying record.

Why haven’t you heard of her?

Well, because she didn’t die, basically, and because she stopped flying during World War II. She was well-prepared, fully-funded (by her husband and Shell Oil), and lucky. She made it through several close shaves but always emerged with her poise and her frocks intact.

Also, she arrived in London not long after Amy Johnson had successfully made the Lond-Australia flight, and the Brits weren’t nearly as impressed by this colonial flyer as the Australians were by Johnson. (And maybe it’s because she was happily married and used her husband’s name – not so attractive to those looking for feminist role models.)

What I love about Lores Bonney (and I was lucky enough to meet her and interview her when I worked for the Powerhouse Museum) was that she didn’t confine herself to flying. At 65, she went down the Amazon by canoe. At 70, she went to Japan and became the first Westerner to be accredited as a bonsai master.

Incidentally, she never learnt to drive, because her father made her husband promise Harry would never allow her to before he would consent to their marriage. Harry kept his promise – but he paid for her flying lessons, and bought her a Gypsy Moth instead!

Her advice to me (and Karen Miller, who was with me on that day) was the best advice I’ve ever been given:

Don’t let them tell you you can’t do it.

Pamela Freeman is an Australian writer whose first adult fantasy series, the Castings Trilogy (Blood Ties, Deep Water, Full Circle), is published globally by Orbit Books. Pamela is also an award-winning author of 19 children’s books. Her most recent children’s book is Lollylegs, from Walker Books, which is published here and in the UK next month. Pamela’s new adult fantasy novel, Ember and Ash, will also be published in March and she is working on a fantasy series for children for Walker Books. [She also has a secret passion for green bunnies (but don't tell her I told you! Gillian]

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