Canadian Aviatrix #69 – Ethel Higdon (1913-2018)

Ethel Higdon was born on 26 June 1913 in Medicine Hat, Alberta, to Americus Alexander "Mack" Higdon (an American rancher) and Martha Elmira "Mattie" Franks.

1916 census

1921 census

1926 census 1931 census

Medicine Hat AB

Medicine Hat AB

Medicine Hat AB Medicine Hat AB




47 53




37 43




12 17


Ethel grew up on the Bar N Bar cattle ranch near Manyberries. She started out horse-riding then moved to driving (cars, trucks and tractors) when she was a teenager. She also worked as secretary-treasurer for the ranch.

When she began her flying lessons, she got up at 3am every morning to drive 100 miles to Lethbridge Flying Club. When that club shut down, she moved to Winnipeg to finish her training.

On 29 August 1939, Ethel passed her flying test and received her PPL, making her the 69th female pilot in Canada. She was 26 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #69 – Ethel Higdon (1913-2018) 

Photo: Calgary Herald (September 2, 1939)

On 8 January 1940, Ethel became the ninth women to hold a commercial pilot’s license in Canada

On 26 October 1940, Ethel married Austin James Currie – her former instructor. They worked together, flying freight between Winnipeg and Montreal, and delivering mail to northern regions of Quebec, before running a meat-packing plant.

Ethel was an active volunteer in many local groups, including at the local television station, Hat Cable 10 – filming weekly council meetings and various community events, as well as acting as commentator and producer for the annual Medicine Hat Stampede Parade. Ethel also opened the Medicine Hat chapter of the United Way.

In 2002, Ethel was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for her work with the Red Cross. The medal was given to people who had made a significant contribution to Canada, their community and their fellow Canadians. In 2013, she celebrated her 100th birthday with an event held by the Federal Liberal Association.

Ethel died in 2018, aged 105.

The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots


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