Born with pink bootees!

Submitted By: Rosemary Arnold | Age: 80 

HMcvr1I was born on April 18, 1934 … yes, I’m very old … and wise … but still mad at the world to have been born to wear pink bootees.

I was born on my brother’s 6th birthday and he wanted a horse so this set the relationship that continues today.

By age 10, I had won a 2yr scholarship to attend a special school but my parents moved after one year and gave no consideration to my academic goals, for none of their families had reached for an education and my brother certainly was not interested. Then again at age 12, I won a 5yr scholarship to a very posh girls’ school but they only let me stay there for one year.

My dream to be a Veterinary Surgeon was shattered with the necessary school subjects not being available at the next school. By age 15, the family moved again and parents said “girls don’t need to be educated for they only marry” so they put me into a secretarial college for one year.

A total of 9 schools in 10years of schooling. So I married at 18, had four kids by age 26 carrying a huge chip on my shoulder and struggled futilely to complete my education.

Then I took up flying as a hobby … gosh, “girls can’t do THAT” … not married ones with children. But I kept on until I achieved my Commercial Pilot’s Licence, actually TWO because along the way I had also trained on helicopters and had become the first woman helicopter pilot in Australia, the 99th WhirlyGirl in the World and the first in the Southern Hemisphere.

No-one would employ a married “girl with children” … girls can’t WHAT?

I struggled as the years past me by until I managed to buy a very old helicopter, painted it with floral decor and wore hot pink flying-suits to thumb my nose at the “old boy’s club” mentality that brought on much discrimination. I would be told when I turned up for a helicopter charter “you won’t do at all, you’re a woman” and similar remarks. I was even sexually assaulted at a Commercial Helicopter Pilot’s job interview, overseas … I explain it, that “I failed the casting couch test” and when I am then asked “are you an actress?” I reply, “If I was I wouldn’t have failed the casting couch test”.

I had to work 2 secretarial jobs to help pay off my helicopter but operated my own Helicopter Air Charter Company with the title, Chief Pilot. It was a huge financial struggle, shedding a couple of husbands along the way, paying them off, plus raring my four children to adulthood. Would the financial struggle ever get easier to allow me to work at a profession I was good at and held such a passion?

Helicopter PilotThen a miracle happened. I found I could attend University, so I graduated with a degree in 18 months instead of 3 years as a Bachelor of Aviation at a Sydney University, at age 70. One week later, I was invited to become a University Lecturer and spent the next few years teaching five aviation subjects. Not bad for a 15 year old high school drop-out? It was not financially rewarding but the achievement was amazing and my students still keep in touch from all over the World.

Along the way I became a Civil Marriage Celebrant and started a 29 year old dream “Chapel in the Sky” doing helicopter wedding ceremonies above Sydney Harbour, Australia. I am now based in a small tourist village Port Fairy, Victoria which recently won an International Award for the “most liveable community in the World”.

My speaking career started in 1965 when I became “that woman helicopter pilot” and over 50 years I have blossomed into a motivational, inspirational speaker both Internationally (USA) and Nationally (Australia). I am also a published author, for my passion is aviation history of women who have never been recognised since 1909, “First Females Above Australia”. My autobiography “Hovering Matilda” is now underway, a warts and all dummy-spit for having been born to wear pink bootees.

Be strong, be decisive, keep your spirit high and believe in yourself. You can achieve your dreams regardless of how old you become for your mind is kept youthful with dreams you know can come true … “girls can’t WHAT?” JUST DO IT! And so I married, married, married and married and have become EDUCATED.

Find me at:


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1 Comment

  1. Cara on January 7, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, I loved reading about your determination in the face of adversity- plus I LOVE the hot pink flight suits:)

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