Canadian Aviatrix #77 – Vera Harris (1917-2002)

Vera Eileen Harris was born around 1917 in Calgary, Alberta, to George Harris (businessman) and Mary Hunter.

1916 census

1921 census

Calgary AB

Calgary AB

George

30

36

Minnie

29

33

George

7

12

Sydney

[1910-11]

-

Bert

2

7

Vera

-

4

 

Vera obtained her driver’s licence when she was only 12 years old. She attended St Hilda’s School in Calgary then Strathcona Lodge School for Girls on Vancouver Island.

George was a charter member of the Calgary Gun Club and in 1939, Vera tried trap shooting for the first time.

On 4 June 1940, Vera passed her flying test and received her PPL, making her the 77th female pilot in Canada. She was 23 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #77 – Vera Harris (1917-2002)  

Photo: The Vancouver Sun (August 16, 1940)

George was also a pilot and owned his own plane. A couple of months after passing her test, Vera flew to New York to buy one for herself! (George also owned a yacht, the Mandalay B, which still exists, but is currently underwater in McKay Bay.)

On 29 July 1941, Vera married Joseph Herbert Holdsworth. Joe served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the war, was associated with his family’s wholesale jewellery business, then took up farming. They had two children.

Vera continued to develop her shooting skills after marriage and, by 1953, had won enough trophies that Joe had to build special shelves over an entire wall of their rumpus room to hold them all. Vera’s daughter was also becoming a keen shot and her son had happy memories of going duck-hunting with Vera before breakfast.

In 1963, Vera divorced Joe – he went on to marry the woman named as co-defendant.

Vera was Alberta Champion of trapshooting nineteen times, Canadian Ladies Champion thirteen times, 1959 North American Ladies Champion, and the first woman to qualify for both the Canadian and the American Trapshooting Teams. She even competed as a member of the Canadian Men’s Team in 1961, scoring 99 out of 100.

In 1989, Vera was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. In 1991, she was named as one of the YWCA’s Women of Distinction.

Vera died in 2002, aged 85.

Note: Vera 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