Canadian Aviatrix #76 – Helen Cowan (1905-1981)

Helen Julia Cowan was born on 12 February 1905 in Brantford, Ontario, to Thomas Albert Cowan (owner of a plumbing and heating business) and Birdie Giles.

1911 census

1921 census

1931 census

Brantford ON

Brantford ON

Brantford ON














Helen was a teacher at the Graham Bell School in Brantford. In 1935, she was elected President of the City of Brantford, Brant County and North Norfolk Teachers’ Association. She was also a member of the Grace Anglican Church and part of their badminton club.

In 1938, Helen was one of four Brantford teachers to go on an exchange trip to England. She was based in London and helped with preparations for evacuating the children in the event of war. It wasn’t all work though and the women spent Christmas in Rome. Birdie had gone to Europe with Helen and was issued a gas mask, which she brought home and showed the newspapers.

On her return to Canada, Helen and her Grade 5 class began fundraising for the Brantford Red Cross – raising $20 by baking, making candles, gardening and running errands.

On 20 January 1940, Helen passed her flying test and received her PPL, making her the 76 female pilot in Canada. She was 34 years old. Helen flew at least until July 1941.

Canadian Aviatrix #76 – Helen Cowan (1905-1981)

Photo: The Brantford Expositor (January 18, 1940)

The fundraising didn’t stop after the war. In 1957, Helen’s class (which was both Grades 5 and 6) raised $45 for the Rotary Club’s “crippled children fund” by selling potato chips. By 1959, Helen had moved to the Lansdowne School and was teaching Grades 7 and 8.

Helen died in 1981, aged 76.

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

The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots


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