Biography of Ruth Law Oliver - Aviation Pioneer

Ruth Law Oliver - Daytona Beach Florida

Ruth Law Oliver (Born May 21, 1887 - Died December 1, 1970) was an early 20th-century aviation pioneer. 

Law became intrigued by flying because of her brother, the daredevil Rodman Law. Ruth kept up with her brother physically, climbing telephone poles and riding fast horses as a child.  Both were known for being adventurous. 

Ruth and Rodman Law - Brother And Sister And Rabble-rousers

While her brother Rodman became a stuntman, Ruth demonstrated an interest in aviation. She expressed interest in enrolling in Orville Wright’s pilot training school, but Wright believed that “women were unfit to fly” and rejected her. Undeterred, Law convinced Harry Atwood and Arch Freeman at Atwood Park in Saugus, Massachusetts, to take her on as a student.  


Not only did she learn how to fly—on November 12, 1912, she received her pilot's license—but she also became an adept aircraft mechanic. In a scrapbooked article from 1912, a reporter wrote that "the slightest change in the sound of the whirring propellers instantly warns [Law] of danger. . . She pays strict attention not only to the working parts but also to the tension of the rods and braces which bind the planes together." 


Her 1916 cross-country flight established Law’s bravery, bravado, and cemented her name in aviation history. On  November 19, she broke the existing cross-America flight airspeed record of 452 miles (728 km) set by Victor Carlstrom by flying nonstop from Chicago to New York State, a distance of 590 miles (950 km). The next day she flew on to New York City. Flying over Manhattan, her fuel cut out, but she glided to a safe landing on Governors Island and was met by United States Army Captain Henry "Hap" Arnold (who changed her spark plugs in the Curtiss Pusher), who would one day become Commanding General of the United States Army Air Forces. President Woodrow Wilson attended a dinner held in her honor on 2 December 1916.




Following the War, Law set several aviation records, did stunt flying, and operated Ruth Law’s Flying Circus. Several sources say she earned as much as $9,000 per week, approximately equivalent to $112,590 U.S. dollars in 2016. She decided to hang up her wings in March 1922, saying that her husband was worried about her and that she wanted to raise a family.

 

SOURCES:

Smithsonain Magazine

The US Caribbean & Ethnic Florida Digital Newspaper Project

This Day In Aviation