Canadian Aviatrix #35 – Effie Grevelink (1889-1980)

Ida Effie Grevelink was born on 16 January 1889 in India to George Grevelink (a captain in the Indian army) and Ida Marie O'Brien. By 1914, the family had moved to England and Effie was a musician – mainly playing the violin, but also the piano.

In 1917, Effie’s brother, Edward James Yzenhoed Grevelink was killed in action. He left Sandhurst in 1913, was wounded at Ypres in 1915, then joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1916. He was “an excellent draughtsman” as well as “a very experienced pilot and extraordinarily brave”. Bedford School gives out a prize for science in his name.


1921 census

Bedford UK






(It’s unclear where Ida Marie was on census night.)

On 29 July 1929, Effie married her cousin, James Terrence O’Brien-Saint, in Toronto.

James was the son of Ida Marie’s sister, Kathleen, and was also born in India in 1889, before moving to England, where he got his aviator’s certificate in 1918. He served with the Royal Air Force in England until 1927, when he transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force. He worked as an instructor and was the Commanding Officer when the Trenton airbase opened. In 1932, he was said to be “one of the greatest stunt flyers in aviation”.

On 27 October 1933, Effie passed her flying test and received her PPL, making her the 35th female pilot in Canada. She was 44 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #35 – Ida Effie Grevelink (born 1889) 

On 31 October 1934, James died when the plane he was teaching in crashed into a farmhouse. The inquest couldn’t find the cause of the crash, but it was hinted that James’ student had perhaps “frozen” at the controls.

Effie continued her flying training and in January 1935, was presented with her “wings” insignia from the Toronto Flying Club.

Effie was a talented musician on the piano and violin and, during WW2, taught German to Canadian soldiers at Camp Borden. She never remarried and, until the last three years of her life, lived alone.

Effie died in 1980, aged 91.

Note: Ida was listed with an asterisk in No Place for a Lady – meaning the author hadn’t been able to find her. I just had “J.T. O'Brien-Saint (Mrs)” and the date of her PPL.

The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots


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