Canadian Aviatrix #11 – Elsie MacLean (1909-1998)

Born Elspeth Mary Campbell MacLean in April 1909 in Vancouver, British Columbia, to William Campbell MacLean (a Scottish grain dealer) and Mary Annie Croft. 

In 1918, Elsie wrote to the Edmonton Journal’s ‘Farmer’s Rainbow Club’ column, saying that she’d recently moved to Edmonton, although she preferred Vegreville, she loved her teacher and siblings, and that they all escaped “the flu”.

1911 census

1916 census

1926 census

Wetaskewin AB

Wetaskewin AB

Edmonton AB

William

27

32

42

Mary Annie

29

30

40

Elsie

2

6

17

John R

9m

5

15

Donald

-

2

12

Isabel

-

6m

10

Stuart

-

-

8

Dorothy

-

-

4

 

Elsie worked at the Bank of Nova Scotia and started taking flying lessons in July 1929. She said that she wanted to be the first woman in Edmonton to get a commercial pilot’s license (although she never did).

On 12 November 1929, Elsie passed her flying test and received PPL #423, making her the eleventh female pilot in Canada. She was 20 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #11 - Elsie MacLean (1909-1998)

Photo: The Edmonton Bulletin (August 2, 1929)

On 23 May 1941, Elsie married William Joseph Hughes. She was 32 and a stenographer. William was a 45 year old floor layer from Dublin. The couple had three children – Elspeth, Margaret and Robert.

William died in 1970 and Elsie got remarried to Donald MacFarlane. They lived in White Rock and Elsie was a founding member of her local church, a Board member of a retirement home, and President of the Soroptimist Club of White Rock.

Elsie died in May 1998, aged 89.

The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots