A life-long Marylander of 95 year, Elaine Danforth Harmon was a role model, patriot, and World War II veteran. Born in 1919, she was the daughter of Dr. David Charles Danforth (a Baltimore dentist and professional baseball player with the 1914 Baltimore Orioles) and Margaret Oliphant Danforth (a homemaker). She distinguished herself early in life by earning a degree in bacteriology from the University of Maryland in 1940.
While an undergraduate, and in response to an ad in the school’s student newspaper, “The Diamondback,” Elaine applied for, and was accepted into, the Civilian Pilot Training program at the historic College Park Airport. She asked her father to sign the permission form because she knew her mother felt it would be “unlady-like” to be a pilot.
After earning her private pilot’s license and graduating from the University of Maryland, she became aware of a need for female pilots to join the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) to provide support for the war effort in 1943. Over 25,000 women nationwide responded, but only 1,830 were granted admission into the program. Ultimately, Elaine was one of the 1,074 women who successfully completed pilot training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. Thirty-eight of these brave women died in service to their country. The WASP were trailblazers by successfully breaking into the previously male dominated role of military pilots. In the many decades that have passed since the war, they have continued to be role models, and heroines, for aspiring young women across our nation.
During the 1970s, she was very proactive in working with the WASP organization, and Senator Barry Goldwater, to get the WASP contributions to World War II finally recognized with the award of an Honorable Discharge and GI benefits from the United States Air Force for the pilots. In more recent decades she remained active in WASP activities that resulted in the awarding, by an act of Congress, of the Congressional Gold Medal. Resulting from her leadership role in ongoing post-WWII activities, Elaine was invited to the White House Oval Office on two occasions, one with President George W. Bush, and the other with President Barack Obama.
We honor you, Elaine Harmon.
(#Repost @Maryland’s Women’s Hall of Fame)