Minnesota History Player Melissa Friedmann will take a step back in time to portray Virginia Mae Hope, a pilot and was a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), in two performances in the Brainerd lakes area.
Friedmann will present the program at 3:30 p.m. March 20 at the Brainerd Public Library and at 2 p.m. March 24 at the Warehouse in Pine River.
Hope’s life was short but exciting. Participants will learn what it was like growing up on a farm in Winnebago, during the Great Depression and serving as a female pilot during World War II. There also will be information about the bombing of Pearl Harbor and its national impact, and the changing roles of women during World War II.
The WASP performed wartime duties in the United States, thus freeing male pilots for combat. Hope was one of only 1,074 women to receive the WASP “silver wings” after completing rigorous training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. After graduation, she was assigned to the Weather Wing and stationed at Patterson Field in Dayton, Ohio. Hope was known to say, “Isn’t it just wonderful!” about her WASP career, though she and other female pilots faced blatant discrimination simply because they were women. Not until 1977, 33 years after the program was disbanded, did Congress recognize the WASP as military pilots or grant them veteran status. Hope died on Dec. 7, 1944, in Omaha, Neb., when the plane on which she was a passenger crashed after takeoff.
The events are part of the free Legacy Programs funded in part or in whole with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on Nov. 4, 2008 which dedicated funding to preserve Minnesota’s art and cultural heritage.