Canadian Aviatrix #53 – Betty Holmes (1914-1998)

Mary Elizabeth Holmes (known as Betty) was born on 21 April 1914 in Chatham, Ontario, to Kingsley Hulme Holmes (a surgeon) and Alice Greening.



1921 census


Chatham ON





Mary E


Bonny B


Donna J



Gertrude Wilson (housemaid)


In 1931, Kingsley was planning a trip to the Mediterranean and Egypt, when he fell ill with appendicitis. He was in Detroit at the time and was rushed into hospital for surgery. Although he initially recovered, he developed peritonitis and died. It was already a sad time for the family, with Kinglsey’s eldest brother and his parents having died only months before.

In 1935, Alice got remarried to Arney Frank Henry.

Betty started flying at Walker Airport in 1936 and went solo within five weeks.

On 14 January 1937, Betty passed her flying test and received her PPL, making her the 53rd female pilot in Canada. She was 22 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #53 – Betty Holmes  (1914-1998) 

Photo: The Windsor Star (December 19, 1936)

Betty was the first woman member of the board of directors of the Border Cities Aero Club, alongside John Canfield (husband of Mary Adams, aviatrix #50). She was also an avid skier – attending the Dominion ski championships in Banff.

By 1956, Betty was married to Robert S Brown and they went on to have two children.

Betty died in 1998, aged 84.

Note: Betty was listed with an asterisk in No Place for a Lady – meaning the author hadn’t been able to find her. I just had “M.E. Holmes” and the date of her PPL.

Canadian Aviatrix Project

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