Ivy May Pearce
Ivy May Pearce (8 June 1914 – 26 April 1998) was one of the first female pilots in the southern hemisphere and a pioneer of the Gold Coast, Queensland (Dwyer, N. 1998). She was also noted for a number of fashion boutiques she established in the region and her association with Vogue Australia.
Pearce was born in Ipswich to George and Sarah-Ann Pearce and was raised in a succession of Hotels. At three years of age, in 1917, she fell ill with a lung condition that almost claimed her life. She struggled through life and by the time she was 6 her parents decided to send her to Dalby, Queensland, in the hope that the dryer climate may help her recover.
Pearce and her younger sister, Merle, lived in the Dalby Convent, as this was the only place their parents could find for them to stay. At the convent she began piano lessons, at which she excelled. On her return to Brisbane she attended All Hallows Catholic School where she also learnt the cello and the violin. It was here that she also received her piano letters.
After leaving All Hallows, Pearce developed an interest in flying after her father gave her a Tiger Moth plane. She was soon flying around her home town of Surfers Paradise and went on to become one of Australia's first aerobatic pilots, taking her first flying lessons aged only 16, and by 18, had her A-class pilot's licence.
Pearce was an aviator during the 1930s. One of her best friends of that period was Gloria (née Osborne) Pritchett of Bundaberg, Queensland. Gloria frequently flew with Ivy in a two-seat configured biplane. Gloria was also a bridesmaid at Ivy's wedding to Ernest Jason Hassard. Gloria resided in Coronado, California until she died in 2008.
She married Ernest Jason Hassard, nephew of Keith Virtue, in 1937 at the age of 23.
Described as "one of the countries first aerobatic pilots" (Dwyer, N. 1998) and an aviatrix, in 1934 Pearce was runner up in the Courier-Mail Flying Scholarship behind the winner Harry Poulsen. Pearce "was the only female among five males who scored free lessons and a year's membership to the Aero Club" (Clare Mackenzie, 1993). Due to there being no other female pilots, let alone ones who could do loops in the air and were only 18 years of age, she had trouble finding a game passenger. Brisbane Catholic Archbishop James Duhig volunteered. Pearce once said "I've never been absolutely sure whether he put his faith in me of the Almighty on that occasion".
She competed in the 16 December 1936 Brisbane to Adelaide air race. Pearce made national headlines as the youngest entrant who recorded the fastest time of any woman pilot, heavily handicapped and just two seconds behind the eventual winner. She beat Reg Ansett, founder of Ansett Airlines. (Mackenzie (1993))
In 1946 Pearce opened the first fashion boutique on the Gold Coast. She used her own design and later organised fashion parades for the region, being some of the first fashion parades for that area.
In the late 1950s she opened a beauty salon called 'Jollie Madame', named after her favourite perfume. By this time she had three children. Her marriage to Jason ended in 1950.
During the 1960s Pearce opened her third boutique, 'Ivy Hassard Fashions', which used to be at the ANA hotel site.
Due to her lung condition, she was not expected to live to child bearing age. She defied medical authorities and survived to be 84. On 26 April 1998 Ivy Pearce died, the lung condition finally claiming her life, leaving behind three children and numerous grandchildren.
- "A High Flyer Defies Years". Gold Coast Bulletin, 14 December 1989 pg 36
- Dwyer, N. (1998). "But Siprit Lives On". Gold Coast Bulletin
- Mackenzie, C (1993). "Ivy's brilliant career". Gold Coast Bulletin, 7 December 1993, pg 39
- Interviews with Ivy May Pearce prior to her death in 1998
- Interviews with her daughter, Laurene Hassard and nephew Greg Honeyman, 2007
- Wiseman, N. (1994). "Taking off". Courier Mail. 1st Week December, 1994