Monday, December 17, 2018

Maggie Gee (1923-2013): Pioneering Aviator & Political Activist

Maggie Gee
Margaret "Maggie" Gee, whose Chinese name was Gee Mei Gue, was born to a successful Chinese importer and a first generation Chinese-American. Maggie's maternal grandparents were fishers who immigrated to the United States to escape the Taiping Revolution. Her father had a heart attack on a San Francisco street after the announcement of the Stock Market crash in 1929, and died shortly thereafter, leaving his daughter, five siblings, and their mother to manage on their own. Maggie witnessed her mother take on great responsibility, not only raising six children and working, but remaining actively involved in her church and community. Despite hardship and hard work as a youngster, Maggie said, "My heroes were Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. I loved to watch airplanes fly."

When America entered WWII, she passed a drafting test and left her first year of college to work at the Mare Island Naval Shipyards in Vallejo, California as a draftsperson for the engineers working on classified US Navy ship repair.

Maggie Gee
By 1942, Maggie had saved enough money to move to Minden, Nevada for flight lessons, paying $800 for six months of training and fifty hours of flying time. After she soloed and accrued the requisite flight hours, she applied to the Women Airforce Service Pilot program at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, and was accepted into class 44-W-9. In June, 1944, in Berkley, California, she boarded a troop train filled with soldiers, and for the next two days, sat on her suitcase or stood up -- all the way to Sweetwater. One hundred seven women pilots entered that class, but she was one of only 55 who earned their silver wings and graduated as WASP on November 8, 1944. She promptly deployed to Las Vegas Army Air Field in Las Vegas, Nevada where she served as a tow-target pilot for male cadets' flexible gunnery training.

She returned to Berkley, completed her formal education after WASP deactivation, and traveled, supervising a European Service Club in the early 1950's.

Later, she worked as a physicist and researcher at UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. Her areas of research included cancer, nuclear weapons design, and fusion energy.

Maggie's lifetime passion for politics began in the Truman Administration, and she supported voter registration and fundraising. She served on the Berkley Community Fund, the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, and as a board member of the Berkley Democratic Club, the California Democratic Party Executive Board, and the Asian/Pacific Islander Democratic Caucus. She was quoted during this extensive activity as saying, "I'm very optimistic about the world and people... It will be all right. You can make changes. I think just one small person can make a little bit of change...."

Bio by: PerseidsGirl

No comments: