Thursday, February 2, 2012

BTTC: Pioneer Hall of Fame & Chubbie Miller Week!

Breaking Through The Clouds Newsletter 
Newsletter #12
  February 2012

Welcome to the newsletter about:

Breaking Through The Clouds: The First Women's National Air Derby (BTTC). 

Happy New Year.  

I hope everyone is off to a great start to 2012!

There is some exciting news to report surrounding the women featured in BTTC including the induction of the derby pilots in the Women in Aviation's (WAI) Pioneer Hall of Fame and a proclamation for "Chubbie" Miller week in Xenia, Ohio! Read below to learn more.

As always, thanks to everyone for their support, shared stories, and contributions along this journey.


Heather Taylor
Archetypal Images, LLC
In This Issue
Pioneer Hall of Fame
"Chubbie" Keith-Miller week
Pioneer in Aviation: Chubbie Keith-Miller
BTTC DVD Available
BTTC Tshirts For Sale
Sale of Old Cover DVDs
What is BTTC?

Women of Derby Being Inducted into WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame!

The Twenty Women from the 1929 Derby will be inducted in the Women in Aviation's Pioneer Hall of Fame during this year's Women in Aviation Conference in Dallas, Texas. While a few of the women were inducted in previous years (Amelia Earhart, Bobbi Trout, Ruth Nichols & Louise Thaden), I thought it was fitting to nominate the group as a whole so the women would be represented as the unique community they were in 1929. I will be attending the banquet and hope to have pictures along with a story or two about the event in a future newsletter. It's wonderful to see the women receiving the recognition they so richly deserve.

Jessie "Chubbie"  
Keith-Miller Week   
There is footage in BTTC of Jessie "Chubbie" Keith-Miller being interviewed by reporters after the race. She is talking about an emergency landing she made in Xenia, Ohio on the last lap of the race. She states:

I'm awfully happy to be here. It was a choppy flight today and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But last night wasn't so hot. It was just bad luck that I broke a valve and had to sit down in a big field amongst a lot of cows and pigs and horses - but this morning we had to shoo all the pigs into a corner of the field and I think all the inhabitants of Xenia came out and anyhow it was great to get away and I'm awfully happy to be here and I love the air race."

Imagine my surprise when history teacher Kate Tiffany of Xenia, Ohio contacted me and said the town of Xenia is working to proclaim the week of March 25th, 2012 "Chubbie" Miller week.  Kate said the proclamation is a direct result of BTTC!

It gets better! Evidently Kate showed some high school students BTTC. As part of a project, some of the students decided to find the spot where "Chubbie" landed. Kate describes below:

The (students) have volunteered their time (which will end up being over 100 hours) to compete for the SkillsUSA Community Service competition. The name of the project is Chubbie Miller, Restore Our History. They will be presenting the project ... in Columbus, OH in April. Part of the project includes putting together a 60 page book which focuses on the Objective of the Project, the impact of the project of the school, and the impact of the project on the community. We are focusing on the impact on the community of Xenia and the impact on the aviation community.

Congratulations to the students involved in this wonderful project and good luck in the competition! I look forward to hearing how it goes.

In addition to the competition, Xenia's Mayor will present a proclamation to the city council to approve and officially declare the week of March 25th, 2012 "Chubbie" Miller week in Xenia, Ohio. The town even plans to have a fly-over marking the spot where "Chubbie" landed. I hope to attend the ceremony so will post pictures afterwards. This really is a fun and exciting way to honor "Chubbie" as well as teaching students about the Australian pilot, making her story come alive for a new generation. Very exciting!


I have jumped back into research mode and absolutely love finding all the amazing examples of the grit and determination the women of the derby had, not only to fly, but for life. Jessie "Chubbie" Keith-Miller certainly had both grit and determination as well as being adventurous, daring, persuasive, smart and innovative.

Researching some of the women can often be sketchy or conflicting and this is certainly true with Chubbie. For example, she is listed in so many newspapers and reference books as being from New Zealand, that I  started questioning my initial research that she was Australian. Fortunately I have been able to confirm that she was, in fact, from Southern Cross in Western Australia.

Chubbie, as she was nicknamed (presumably as a joke since she was so small), married at a young age. Due to several situations that affected her personal life, including the death of her beloved brother, she decided to seek adventure. Working at a sales job, she earned enough money to travel to England, convincing her husband to let her go alone. While in England, Chubbie met Bill Lancaster, a pilot intent on flying to Australia from England. Bill had big ideas but little money. Chubbie, seeing a golden opportunity, decided to raise the money for the flight and organized the entire trip, all while convincing Bill she should fly with him. She argued that having a woman on board would be good publicity. Chubbie was a smooth talker and was able to raise the needed funds. As a result, she was the first women to fly to Australia, albeit as a passenger.  There were many harrowing adventures along this journey, including the two being shot at by tribesmen, flying over shark infested waters, flying through sand storms, a crash landing (resulting in two black eyes for Chubbie), and a real snake on a plane (in the cockpit, which Chubbie had to kill). Unbelievably, a lot more happened on this trip! Chubbie persevered alongside Bill, even learning how to fly en route.

Chubbie and Bill came to America for a job offer in Hollywood shortly after the flight to Australia. This job fell through as did many other ventures the couple pursued. Chubbie was offered a job if she could be a wireless operator so she went to radio school in LA and obtained her radio operators license (the only female in the class). 

Incredibly, Chubbie did not get her pilot's license until 1929, a few months before the First Women's National Air Derby. She secretly took lessons in New Jersey so the press would not know that her previous flying jobs were done without a license. Chubbie did well in the derby, coming in third in the light class division. 

After the derby, Chubbie flew in a Ford Reliability Tour and was the only woman to finish the race. There were many short term jobs after the derby and the Ford Reliability Tour, including working for various aircraft manufacturers. In 1930, Chubbie beat pilot Laura Ingals record for a coast to coast flight from New York to Los Angeles (25 hours, 44 minutes) and Los Angeles to New York (21 hours, 47 minutes). Chubbie also had an amazing adventure flying from Pittsburgh to Havana, Cuba where at one point she was presumed dead due to flying off-course during bad weather. She  became the first woman to make this flight.

Unfortunately, Chubbie became entangled in a personal scandal later in life which overshadowed much of her aviation accomplishments. I won't go into the details here other than stating that it had to do with a love triangle.

I am excited that some new material is in the works regarding Chubbie's career. As soon as this material is available, I will share the information. I also have made some new contacts that will hopefully lead to more information on Chubbie. Meanwhile, I thought it would be neat to write something about Jessie "Chubbie" Keith-Miller in this newsletter to correlate with the wonderful events happening in Xenia, Ohio next month.

There is no doubt that Chubbie was passionate about life. She was smart, enthusiastic, gutsy and determined. She most certainly deserves the title of Pioneer in Aviation!

Miller in Plane
Jessie "Chubbie" Keith-Miller

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BTTC DVD Available
BTTC Cover withLaurels
The DVD is available at: 

The inspiring true story of 20 women who raced across America in 1929.  

Follow along as headline aviatrixes Amelia Earhart, Pancho Barnes, Phoebe Omlie, Bobbi Trout and Louise Thaden race across the country during nine amazing days in the summer of 1929.
Breaking Through The Clouds provides over two hours of captivating viewing with original footage from the women who flew in the 1929 air derby and from the race itself.

Beautiful aerial recreations place the viewer in the pilot's seat.  Interviews with legendary pilots Elinor Smith Sullivan, Patty Wagstaff, Julie Clark, family members of the original pilots & aviation historians bring the story alive.

With 23 minutes of bonus material included, the film features challenges the women faced during the race, what the women wore and more information about the planes & navigation in 1929. 

Available at:
BTTC Cost $30 plus S&H

*Note:For those who do not like to order on-line or use pay pal,you may fill out this order form and mail a check:
BTTC Order Form 
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If you know someone who would like to receive these newsletter,s please feel free to forward to them and have them join the  mailing list.

       BTTC T-shirts
For Sale

Both black BTTC and white BTTC t-shirts are available.  Below is what the front of a black t-shirt looks like.  The back has written in the top middle part. 

If you would like a t-shirt, send me an email.  The cost is $20 plus postage. Heather@breakingthroughtheclou 
BTTC T-shirt (black).  White T-shirts with a black Logo are also available.

*PLEASE NOTE: Occasionally peoplel tell me they sent an email & I didn't respond.  This is one of the curses of the electronic age as I am not aware when I do not receive an email.  If you haven't heard a response from me within a week (typically much sooner), chances are I have not received the email.  You can call me at 865-242-7551, though my preference is email first.

Old Cover DVD's on Sale

As mentioned in the last newsletter, I still have some DVDs with the old cover featured. Despite the old cover, a couple spelling errors in the opening quote and a missing credit, the film is the same as what is sold now. I am selling these copies for $20 plus shipping while supplies last. If interested, just send an email to and we can work out the details. Thank you. 

BTTC old cover

What is Breaking Through The Clouds?

Breaking Through The Clouds: The First Women's National Air Derby is a documentary about 20 female pilots, including Amelia Earhart, who raced across the country for 9 days in August 1929 to prove that women could fly.  They chased their dream and encountered cultural stereotypes, navigation challenges, threats of sabotage, mechanical difficulties and endless chicken dinners.  The women persevered and became pioneering legends in aviation.  Their story is inspiring to anyone who has the courage to follow their own dream.  

Heather Taylor had a calling to tell this inspiring story in the hopes of helping others to find the courage to search for their own path.  While Heather hasn't had to deal with the endless chicken dinners like the women in the derby did, she does face the challenges of an an independent artist.  By spreading the word and supporting the film, you are helping Heather and other struggling artists reach for the sky in their own way and work towards breaking through the clouds.
Thank you. 
Heather Taylor, Executive Producer
Archetypal Images, LLC

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