Canadian Aviatrix #56 – Meta Dotterer (1914-2002)

Meta Marcelite Dotterer was born on 30 June 1914 in Vienna, Ontario, to Martin Dotterer (a mechanic) and Edna Helen Martin.

Her parents got married on 23 September 1915 (so just over a year after Meta’s birth), when Martin was 30 and Edna was 18. Meta’s birth was only registered many years later, possibly to hide the fact that Edna was around her seventeenth birthday when she got pregnant.



1921 census

1931 census


Glencoe ON

Windsor ON























It’s unclear where Martin was in 1931. However, he was often in trouble with the law. In 1926, he was charged with being drunk and disorderly as part of a joy riding group and fined $10 plus costs. A couple of months later, he was accused of neglecting his family, although he alleged that he’d come home to find Edna “participating in a cigarette and beer party”. He pled guilty to violating the Children’s Protection Act and received a suspended sentence. He was in such a hurry to leave the dock, he couldn’t unfasten the catch on the door. A couple of months after that, he was charged with reckless driving – banned from driving for three months and fined $10 and costs again.

Edna wasn’t a totally innocent party though. In 1926, she was also charged with breaching the Children’s Protection Act. The following year, she was found guilty of illegally purchasing liquor and sentenced to 20 days in prison or paying fine and costs totalling $121.75. In 1929, Edna’s lodger was sent to jail after selling liquor illegally and had previously been convicted of having offensive weapons. In 1943, she was named as co-defendant when William Mollard’s wife divorced him and later that year, crashed his car into a bus, when she failed to follow a stop sign.

When Meta was 15, she graduated from the Windsor Business Institute and started work as a stenographer. She became an active member of the Tau Gamma Tau sorority.

By the time she was 20, she was already an “aviation enthusiast” and had been up for several flights at Walker Airport. In 1934, she was lucky to escape serious injury when the plane she was a passenger in was hit by a sudden gust of wind as it was landing. She was severely cut and bruised and spent time in hospital. She recovered, but always had a scar over her left eyebrow. The pilot (Bertram J Brown from Detroit) almost lost his eye and the plane was destroyed.

Meta wasn’t discouraged though! In 1935, she was one of 35 student pilots and the only girl, plus she attended the Aviator’s Club annual dance. On 11 July, she completed her first solo flight.

On 8 February 1936, Meta married Desmond William Roberts (a 23-year-old clerk).

On 14 July 1937, Meta passed her flying test and received her PPL, making her the 56th female pilot in Canada. She was 23 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #56 – Meta Dotterer (1914-2002) 

Photo: The Windsor Star (July 12, 1935)

Marriage didn’t stop her love of flying. In 1938, Meta was director of entertainment at the airport, received instruction on instrument flying, and flew with Mary Canfield’s husband, John, as part of a goodwill flight over Toronto. She also attended the Windsor Yacht Club’s opening gala.

In 1939, Meta filed for divorce from Desmond – no co-defendant was named and the couple had no children. The divorce was granted in 1940.

Meta was appointed secretary for the Windsor flying club for the duration of the war, but she also attended a weekly motor mechanics course and said she wanted to go overseas – ideally to fly, but willing to drive an ambulance or truck instead.

On 19 October 1940, Meta married Robert Sherman. In 1946, the couple moved to Detroit. Meta worked as a passenger representative for Scandinavian Airlines System for eight years, then as a travel agent for three years. By 1956, she was living in Van Nuys and started her own all-inclusive travel agency.

She was financial secretary of the Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce and was named SAS’ Royal Viking Agent two years in a row in recognition of her promotion of international air travel.

The Meta Sherman Travel Service distributed Pan Am’s booklet, ‘A Woman’s Way to See Europe’, which included advice on preparing for international travel, plus helpful tips like wearing a pinker shade of powder on night flights as “it’s more flattering ‘neath the lights”.

Meta was a passenger on the inaugural SAS service between Oslo and Copenhagen. Her work took her all over the world, including Honolulu, Tahiti, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore.

By 1977, Meta was divorced from Robert and married Al Ragazzi.

Meta died in 2002, aged 88.

Note: Meta 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.M. Roberts (Mrs)” and the date of her PPL.

The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots

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