Born in 1925, Jerrie Mock lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and many other things. After having had several jobs, Geraldine (Jerrie) Mock, née Fredritz became manager of the Colombus Airport (Ohio). She had married Russell Mock in 1945 and they had 3 children. In 1962 Jerrie complained to her husband of having nothing interesting to occupy her, she wanted to go somewhere; she had already learnt to fly. Almost as a joke Russell replied "Why don't you fly around the world ?" Jerrie took him at his word, and after studying an atlas, she commenced to organize her flight in earnest. She discovered that only men had flown around the world and that there were no such records made by females. With only 500 flying hours at this time, she proceded to obtain an Instrument Rating to enable her to fly in all weather conditions (IFR). By the time she was ready, she had clocked 750 hours.
Jerrie used a 1953 Cessna 180, registered N1538C, and christened "The Spirit of Columbus". The aircraft was jointly owned by Jerrie and her husband, along with a friend. It was a high wing machine with conventional landing gear (tail wheel). Two ferry tanks were fitted in the cabin, bringing the total fuel on board to 178 gallons, giving her an endurance of 25 hours and a range of 2400 Nautical Miles. An HF radio set was fitted for longe range radio communications. The engine, donated by the firm Continental, had been cutom built, tested, dismantled, reassembled and tested again four times.
As Jerrie prepared for her flight, she heard of another woman pilot, Joan Merriam Smith, who was also planning to fly solo around the world. Joan planned to retrace Amelia Earhart's ill fated flight. Jerrie Mock was the first of the two women to register her intentions to fly solo around the world with the NAA (representing the FAI in the US). Rules of the FAI stipulate that only one pilot at a time can apply to make an attempt to set the same record. Although the two women pilots insisted they were not racing against one another, Russell Mock pushed his wife to fly faster, not wanting her to be caught by Smith who had dreamt of being the first woman to fly solo around the world, and to finish, where Amelia Earhart had failed.
Jerrie Mock regularly sent her impressions of her flight to the Colombus Newspaper for publication. Pilots setting world records are required by the FAI to keep a log of the flight, and these logs are kept in the archives of the FAI in Lausanne, Switzerland.
She left Columbus on March 19, 1964. Her flight was not without incident, as her HF radio failed to work, and a strong cross wind at Kindley Air Base in Bermuda proved very difficult. At night, on March 26th , Jerrie took off for Santa Maria in the Azores. She had to make an instrument landing. On the 28th, she was on her way to Casablanca in Morocco, and had to fight a lot of icing. Jerrie's aircraft developed problems with the brakes and the tail wheel
Jerrie landed in Bône in Algeria on March 30th. On the 31st, when Jerrie had hoped to have made it to Cairo, she reached Tripoli in Libya. She was on her way again on April 1st, but unfortunately Jerrie landed at a 'secret' military airport at Inshaas by mistake, instead of at Cairo. After two hours of interrogation, she was finally permitted to continue on to Cairo.
The following day, Jerrie visited the pyramids, and had a camel ride. She left Cairo for Dhahran on April 3rd, and for Karachi in Pakistan on the 4th. On the 5th, Mock reached India, and although her husband wanted her to fly on to Calcutta, Jerrie prefered to stop in Delhi. She was in Calcutta on the 6th , Bangkok, Thailand on the 7th , and on April 8th, Mock crossed the Sea on her way to Manila in the Philipines.
At last Jerrie was able to have the brakes repaired. Her husband was still trying to get her to go faster, but she was tired and badly in need of a rest. Jerrie landed on Guam Island on the 11th April, and on Wake Island on the 12th. These islands are American territories. On the 13th April, Jerrie took off for Hawaii, crossing the International Date Line on the way, and thus arriving in Hawaii on the same date. Then came the long leg from Hawaii to California, where she landed at Oakland after a leg of more than 2,400 miles and a flight of more than 18 hours. Her husband, who had lost 18 pounds since the beginning of the flight, was there to greet her, along with journalists, television cameras and a huge crowd.
Jerrie finally arrived home in Columbus on April 17th, after stops in Tucson, Arizona ; El Paso in Texas ; and Bowling Green in Kentucky. President L.B. Johnson awarded her the Gold Medal of the FAA, and many other countries awarded her medals and decorations. The FAI presented her with the prestigious Louis Blériot Silver Medal.
Jerrie was interviewed by radio and television stations from all over the world, and in one such interview, when asked "Why did you do it ?" she answered "I did it to give confidence to the little pilot, who is being left in the jetstream of the space age".
Jerrie Mock had covered 22 858 miles in 30 days, and had flown 158 flying hours. She set two offical records with the FAI: Feminine record, speed around the world and Speed around the world. She also set 5 unofficial records: First woman to fly solo entirely around the world; First woman to fly from the US to Africa via the North Atlantic; First woman to fly across the Pacific in a single engine aircraft; First woman to fly the Pacific from west to east' First woman to fly both the Atlantic and the Pacific.
Geraldine Mock did not fly N1538C again, as the Cessna Company gave her another Cessna in exchange for the Spirit of Columbus which was then put on display in their factory in Wichita, before being given to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. Jerrie continued to fly her new Cessna, a P206, N155JM, in which she set many speed and endurance records, all the way to Puerto Rico, and Rabaul in New Brittain.
As a little girl, Jerrie Mock played with boys because all the girls lived across the street from her, and her mother wouldn't let her cross the street. She played cowboys and Indians, and cops and robbers because that's what the boys played. She didn't play with dolls much, and when she was finally allowed to cross the street, she decided the boy games were more fun than girl games anyhow. She wanted a toy train to play with, like all the boys had, but her mother said "no," and Jerrie never got a toy train until the 1990's when her oldest son, Roger, and some of her grandchildren gave her a train for Christmas. She gets it out every now and then and plays with it even now, to make up for time lost as a child.
As a twelve year old girl, she went with her mother to the local power plant, where her father worked, to see some kind of demonstration. The woman demonstrating did her work, then when she was almost done cleaning up, she sat down and knitted for half an hour to fulfill the Women's Protective Laws which said that a woman could only work for five hours, then must take a thirty minute break before resuming work. Jerrie still resents these laws now as a retired grandmother.
As a young girl, she was expected to do such normal tasks as ironing her clothes, washing the dishes, setting the table every night for supper and then clearing it after the meal was over. Her mother also expected her to learn how to knit. Jerrie did not like knitting and would get hysterical every time her mother tried to teach her. Eventually her demure mother actually gave up on the idea of her learning how, though at her public school, the teachers still insisted she learn how to make tiny embroidery stitches. Jerrie absolutely refused to learn and resented being herded into the domestic education room while the boys were allowed to tinker with mechanics. Jerrie says she still cannot stand being in a room where someone is doing needlework or knitting and cannot imagine anyone actually wanting to do these things.
There are many reasons why Jerrie has resented being a female from her early childhood, including the facts that very few women were in politics during her childhood, women's jobs were extremely limited, "boys had more fun," and she wasn't allowed to join men's clubs. She says that any group that can get together, excluding others, is fine with her (in reference to women's and men's clubs), but she'd have preferred being a man so she could get away from the women, too!
Society gauged women more as inferior and weak than it does today. Women were "too weak" to work long hours in factories, etc., "meant to be at home, raising the children," and other domestic activities, which thoughts were greatly influenced by women themselves from the Cult of Domesticity in the 1800's. Jerrie has always resented being a woman because of these views that society held of women when she was a child and young woman, and even now as a retired grandmother.
"The men get to have more fun and they don't want the women around to interfere with their fun." This worldview sums up the impact of the historical, social, political and economic events in Jerrie Mock's life. Throughout her life, Jerrie has played with the boys, either by design or by accident. Very few women would even think about the possibility of climbing into the pilot seat of an airplane with the anticipation of being isolated from the entire world for hours at a time, just so they could enjoy the outdoors. In order to make her flight around the world in a single engine Cessna 180 (designed for a pilot and three passengers), they had to take out all the seats and replace them with fuel tanks. Because she was so small, she could carry more fuel, so she got a bigger fuel tank and put a cushion on it for her seat. It has only been in recent years that we have encountered women trying to take on such events with any regularity, and for the most part, society still casts a suspicious eye at them. "There must be something wrong with her."
It would be impossible to list all the various events during her life that helped to develop and shape Jerrie's personality. In many cases, timing, more than anything else, shaped her opportunities and opinions about life. At just the point in her life when she wanted to get a job that traditionally was reserved for men, World War II changed American society's opinion about what a woman could do, thus she was the only female in her Chemistry class at Ohio State University, but many more women enrolled in the same class the following year. In many ways, she was just a little more aggressive and a little earlier than many women in terms of pursuing things that only men would do, or "could do."
When I asked her what she considered her greatest accomplishment, I thought she would respond that it was her record-breaking flight around the world. Instead, she brightly answered that her greatest accomplishment was the fact that out of three childhood dreams, which were to fly around the world, ride a camel across the Sahara Desert and ride an elephant in the jungle, she accomplished the first two of these, despite being "just a woman."