Distinguished Women of Past and Present


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Florence (Pancho) Lowe Barnes

From: United States: California
Fields: Aviation and Space Exploration, Business and Finance, Exploration and Adventure
Key Words/Phrases: Stunt pilot, aviatrix, daredevil, club owner
The first woman stunt pilot in the motion pictures, Pancho (Florence) Lowe Barnes was born in 1901 in Pasadena, California, U.S.A.

She took part in the first Women's Air Derby in 1929 and was in the lead until damage to the plane forced her to withdraw from the race. That same year, she did her first stunt in Howard Hughes' movie Hell's Angels. In 1930, she set a new women's speed record of 196.19 miles per hour. She also flew her plane from Los Angeles, California to Mexico City, Mexico becoming the first woman to do so. In 1931, she was a chairman of a transcontinental race for women in which fifty airplanes competed. In 1940, she formed a flying group with other women pilots for the purpose of providing emergency assistance in disasters.

Barnes also ran a resort ranch and bar on her property next to the Edwards Air Force Base in Boron, California. The ranch was popular with pilots and was mentioned in both the book and movie versions of The Right Stuff.

Pancho Barnes died in 1975 on her ranch in Boron.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1997.

1. The Book of Women's Firsts: Breakthrough Achievements of Almost 1,000 American Women by Phyllis J. Read and Bernard L. Witlieb, Random House, 1992
2. Susan B. Anthony Slept Here. A Guide to American Women's Landmarks by Lynn Sherr and Jurate Kazickas, Random House, 1994


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