In 1928, Beth attended the National Air Races along with thousands of other spectators gathered on the grounds of Los Angeles' Mines Field. She found the skills of the pilots and the maneuverability of their aircraft impressive. The only element of the races that gave Beth concern was the notable absence of women on the field. She discovered that they were considered too frail and unsuitable for an event of this nature. In fact, the idea of women flying airplanes was considered preposterous by most. Beth, as dedicated to women’s rights as she was to world peace, lost little time finding a way to support women in their endeavor to be accepted as safe and capable pilots. The Women’s Aeronautic Association of California was soon founded by her. Its purpose was two- fold. The organization would provide support for women pilots in all aspects of aviation and aid in the recognition of women’s air records, recognition never afforded them by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, a non-profit, record-keeping organization founded in 1905.
Feeling that more than a national groups was necessary to accomplish her goals, Beth established the Women’s International Association of Aeronautics (WIAA) in May 1923. The purpose of the WIAA was to stimulate interest and encourage the various forms of air traffic, carrying of mail, passenger transportation, international races, scholarships, and the making of world records. Invitations to join the premier aviation organization were sent throughout the United States and around the world. The only requirement to join was an enthusiasm for aviation. A member did not need to be a pilot. Beth believed that just talking aviation, traveling by air, visiting airports, and using the airmail was sufficient to educate the general public on the merits and safety of the airplane. This included encouraging husbands to seek a career in aviation and educating their children in the benefits of flight.
The initial focus of the WIAA promoted the use of the airplane to deliver mail and supported the emerging airline industry. Beth opened a travel bureau in Beverly Hills to book travel by air, championing the joys of flying and the advantages in created for the businessman by expediting travel. She also flew on the airlines whenever possible. She made numerous transcontinental flights in the United States and every major country in the world. In 1930, she became the first woman passenger to take an airliner from Mexico City to Juneau, Alaska. Her message was enthusiastic and contagious; her commitment to establishing world peace by being airminded never wavered.
Beth’s most historically significant accomplishment was organizing the First Women’s National Air Race in 1929. She saw an all-women’s race as an opportunity to bolster the public’s awareness of the competency of women pilots. According to Beth, “The public press generally censured this outburst of ‘feminism’ in a man’s world. I encountered derision and criticism as did the earlier trail blazers, but happily, a comparative short time later, the wisdom and judgment of my idea was vindicated, which the general public had considered ‘unthinkable’ only a few years ago.” The race became a permanent fixture in aviation.
Planning an event of this magnitude required support, both financially and politically. This seemed to be of little consequence to Beth for she was well-connected and extremely influential. Air race promoter Cliff Henderson appointed Beth to chair the Pilots and Trophies Committee. As part of her duties, she sent letters and telegrams to potential women pilots inviting them to participate in the inaugural event. By April, nine women were signed up. This included Amelia Earhart, Louise Thaden, Marvel Crosson, and Bobbi Trout. And the rest is history!
Aviation and peace played a critical role in Beth's life. She established several more aviation groups, wrote articles and columns for newspapers and magazine, and actively participated in during WWII by providing entertainment and first aid supplies to the troops at March Air Force Base. Never wavering in enthusiasm, she supported her causes until her death in the late 1950s.
The full article of McQueen's life can be found in the Summer 2013 AAHS Journal.
Additional links: http://www.earlyaviators.com/emcqueen.htm