Canadian Aviatrix #24 – Margaret Rankine-Smith (1911-1948)

Born on 6 January 1911 in Moncton, New Brunswick, to Thomas Alexander Rankine-Smith (x-ray technician and Exalted Ruler of the Ottawa Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks) and Lorena Daisy May Dailey.

1911 census

1921 census

1931 census

Kingston ON

Kingston ON

Ottawa ON


















Thomas' mother Zillah

(age 51)




Margaret was a debutante in the 1929 season and her mother organized several events in her honour.

Margaret’s uncle was a WW1 pilot and taught her to fly. She soloed when she was 14, but her father forbid her to get a licence until she was older. By June 1930, Margaret was the “lady pilot” of the Ottawa Flying Club and entering competitions at the club’s field day.

On 8 April 1931, Margaret passed her flying test and received PPL #811, making her the 24th female pilot in Canada. She was 20 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #24 - Margaret Rankine-Smith (1911-1948) 

In 1937, Margaret sued Canadian National (West Indies) Steamships Ltd after her right hand was crushed by a door to the outer deck of the Lady Somers ship while she was returning from a trip to Jamaica.

In 1938, the flying club organized a dawn-to-dusk flight for their tenth anniversary and Margaret took two of the early morning flights. For their eleventh anniversary, Margaret took the first flight – at 4.40am.

By 1939, Margaret was still the only woman in Ottawa with her PPL, but there were four other women in the club. She worked as a civil servant in the Post Office Department, as did two of the others (Edith Treau de Coeli and Gladys Smirle). All the women said they intended to offer their services in the event of war. In 1941, Elianne Roberge tried to organize women pilots to ferry planes across the country and the Ottawa women all volunteered.

In 1945, Margaret visited her parents for the weekend with F. Hollister McQuin. On 5 December 1946, the couple were married.

Sadly, only a few months later, Margaret was diagnosed with colon cancer and on 14 October 1948, she died. She was only 37 years old.

The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots





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