Canadian Aviatrix #3 – Gertrude de la Vergne (1906-1996)

Born on 31 May 1906 in Mamaroneck, New York, to Chester Rhodes de la Vergne and Gladys Elise Block.

Chester graduated from Yale University in 1905, the couple got married in July, followed by a trip around the world, returning to New York in April 1906. Two weeks later, Gertrude was born and another week later, Chester started working as a banker.

After working with various financial companies, Chester owned and operated Glenbow Horse and Cattle Ranch, Alberta, which is where Gertrude and her brother were raised.

1911 census

1916 census

Calgary, AB

Calgary, AB

Chester  

27

32

Gladys

25

31

Gertrude

5

10

Chester

3

8

 

On 4 December 1928, Gertrude passed her flying test and received PPL #157, making her the third female pilot in Canada and the first in Alberta. She was 22 years old.

Photo: Calgary Herald (November 7, 1928)

According to Shirley Render, Gertrude wanted to work in aviation and inquired about flying the mail, but was told it wasn’t a suitable job for a woman. Without the guarantee of finding work, getting a commercial licence was just too expensive, so she gave up flying about a year later. She was the aviation columnist for Calgary Herald.

On 25 July 1932, Gertrude married Charles Reginald Tanner and they spent their honeymoon in the mountains. Reginald was a partner in an investment firm with his brother and they formed Triad Oil Company, which was bought out by BP. Gertrude and Reginald had two children – Terry and Mary.

Gertrude was a leader for the Girl Guides. During the war, a Calgary group of Rangers trained for wartime emergency service and Gertrude acted as the liaison officer between the group and the community. She was also secretary for the parent-teacher association of her local high school.

In 1951, Gertrude’s younger brother and his wife (Chet, aged 43, and Evelyn, 37) were killed in a car crash, leaving behind two children – John and Judy. Judy was only 13 years old when she lost her parents, so Gertrude took her niece in. Judy and Mary were both debutantes in the 1955 season and, when Judy got married, Reginald gave her away.

Gertrude and Reginald eventually moved to Vancouver – living in a luxurious townhouse that was featured in a tour of stylish houses in 1974.

Reginald died in 1982 and Gertrude in 1996, aged 90.

The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots