Ruth Law Oliver

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Ruth Law Oliver
Ruth Bancroft Law.jpg
Ruth Law circa 1915-1919.
Born Ruth Bancroft Law
May 21, 1887
Lynn, Massachusetts
Died December 1, 1970(1970-12-01) (aged 83)
San Francisco, California
Nationality American
Citizenship American
Known for aviation pioneer
Spouse(s) Charles Oliver
Parent(s) Sarah Bancroft Breed
Frederick Henry Law
Relatives Rodman Law(brother)

Ruth Law Oliver née Ruth Bancroft Law (May 21, 1887 - December 1, 1970) was a pioneer American aviatrix during the 1910s.[1][2][3]


Ruth Law was born on May 21, 1887 to Sarah Bancroft Breed and Frederick Henry Law in Lynn, Massachusetts.[1]

She was instructed by Harry Atwood and Arch Freeman at Atwood Park in Saugus, Massachusetts.[4] She received her pilot's license in November 1912. In 1915, she gave a demonstration of aerobatics at Daytona Beach, Florida, before a large crowd. She announced that she was going to "loop the loop" for the first time, and proceeded to do so, not once but twice, to the consternation of her husband, Charles Oliver.

In the spring of 1916, she took part in an altitude competition, twice narrowly coming in second to male fliers. She was furious, determined to set a record that would stand against men as well as women.

Her greatest feat took place on 19 November 1916, when she broke the existing cross-America flight air speed record of 452 miles (728 km) set by Victor Carlstrom by flying nonstop from Chicago to New York State, a distance of 590 miles (950 km). The next day she flew on to New York City. Flying over Manhattan, her fuel cut out, but she glided to a safe landing on Governors Island and was met by United States Army Captain Henry "Hap" Arnold (who changed her spark plugs in the Curtiss pusher), who would one day become Commanding General of the United States Army Air Forces. President Woodrow Wilson attended a dinner held in her honor on 2 December 1916.

After the United States entered World War I in April 1917, she campaigned unsuccessfully for women to be allowed to fly military aircraft. Stung by her rejection, she wrote an article entitled "Let Women Fly!" in the magazine Air Travel, where she argued that success in aviation should prove a woman's fitness for work in that field.

After the war, she continued to set records. After Raymonde de Laroche of France set a women's altitude record of nearly 13,000 feet (3,962 m) on 7 June 1919,[5] She broke Laroche's record on 10 June, flying to 14,700 feet (4,481 m).[5] Laroche in turn, however, broke Oliver's record on 12 June, flying to a height of 15,748 feet (4,800 m).[6]

She died on December 1, 1970, in San Francisco.[1]


Her brother was the parachutist and pioneer movie stuntman Rodman Law (1885-1919).[7]


  1. ^ a b c Associated Press (December 4, 1970). "Ruth Law Oliver, 79, Pioneer Flier, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-01-14. Ruth Law Oliver, a pioneer woman aviator, died here Tuesday. She was 79 years old. 
  2. ^ "A Pioneer Aviatrix Visits Joplin". Historic Joplin. Retrieved 2012-08-28. The pilot was the famous Ruth Bancroft Law and had been challenging both stereotypes and flying records for the past several years. 
  3. ^ "Ruth Bancroft Law (Oliver) (1887-1970)". Hargrave. Retrieved 2012-08-28. Ruth Law enjoyed one of the longest and most colorful careers of early female aviators. She was so successful that, in 1917, she earned as much as $9,000 a week for exhibition flights. ... 
  4. ^ Edwards, John Carver (2009). Orville's Aviators: Outstanding Alumni of the Wright Flying School, 1910-1916. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 63. ISBN 9780786442270. 
  5. ^ a b Pawlak, p. 17.
  6. ^ Pawlak, p. 17, claims the height reached was 15,748 feet (4,800 m).
  7. ^ "Thrill World But Their Dad is Not So Much Impressed". Wichita Daily Eagle. November 2, 1919. p. 39. Retrieved February 27, 2017 – via  open access publication – free to read

Further reading[edit]

  • Pawlak, Debra Ann. "The Baroness of Flight". Aviation History, July 2008, pp. 16–17.

External links[edit]