1929 – Cleveland National Air Race – behind the grandstand. That was the “when” and “where” several lady pilots discussed the possible formation of a women aviators’ organization. The rest is history. The first organizational meeting was scheduled November 2, 1929, at Curtiss Field on Long Island, New York. Thus, the start of the 99 Club. Of the 99 Charter Members, fifteen were from North Central Section.
Lauretta Schimmoler (License #15907) served as the first North Central Section Governor in 1931 during Amelia Earhart’s first tenure of office. Then she was elected International Secretary-Treasurer during Earhart’s second term and the first year of Margaret Cooper’s presidency (1932-1934). Lauretta also spearheaded the formation of the Cleveland Chapter, the first 99s Chapter in Ohio (1932). Mary von Mach, a Charter Member, was the second NCS Governor (1932-1933) and a member of the Michigan Chapter.
Growth of the Section was slow. By 1932, only 30 members were registered in the North Central Section across nine states. By October 1936, NCS had only four chapters – Illinois, Michigan, Northern Ohio, and Southern Ohio. The other five states (Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin) in the NCS had only one or two 99s in their respective states and could not form a chapter. At least five members were required to form a Chapter.
During her term as Governor (1937-1939) and as NCS Membership Chairman (1940), Florence Boswell (Cleveland) devoted a great deal of time traveling in her Cessna throughout the Section, promoting The 99s and assisting in Chapter formation. Over next several years, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Eastern Missouri, and Wisconsin were chartered as new Chapters in our Section.
All pilots were grounded following December 7, 1941. WWII brought members quickly into the war effort, not only on the home front, but in a variety of other missions. The 99s served in Civil Defense, WACs, WAFs, WASPs, WAVES, Red Cross, and Nurse Corps. Chapter activities became very limited during this period.
In 1945 after the war, The 99s undertook reorganization and membership growth. As Chapter memberships increased through the years, so have the number of Chapters in the Section. Divisions of some larger chapters have created new chapters covering smaller geographical areas, which facilitated easier attendance at chapter activities. In 1991, NCS had a high of 24 chapters.
NCS members have served the 99s International Board of Directors in a variety of offices. The following NCS members were elected as President of The 99s:
- Mabel Britton (1935-1937)
- Jeannette Lempke Sovereign (1945-1947)
- Belle Hetzel (1947-1948)
- Alice Hammond (1951-1953)
- Edna Gardner Whyte (1955-1957)
- Eugenia “Deedo” Heise (1959-1961)
- Bernice Steadman (1969-1970)
- Lois Feigenbaum (1976-1978)
- Marie Christensen (1990-1992)
- Elaine Morrow (2004-2006)
- Cynthia Madsen (2006-2008)
- Shelley Ventura (2008-2012)
- Paula Hook (2012-2014)
- Minnetta Gardinier (2014- 2018)
- Ellen O’Hara (2018-2020)