Canadian Aviatrix #72 – Flo Elliott (1917-2012)

Florence Esther Elliot was born on 13 January 1917 to William Edmund Elliott (a newspaper reporter and editor) and Henrietta Pearl Shafer.

1911 census

1921 census

London ON

London ON

William

28

37

Henrietta

24

34

William

1m

7

Florence

-

4

John

-

9m

 

Flo attended the University of Western Ontario by correspondence, working three jobs to pay for it.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1938, she took a job as secretary at the London Flying Club. She was paid $60 a month and 30 minutes of free flying a week. She kept her lessons a secret from her parents, as they wouldn’t have approved.

On 16 November 1939, Flo passed her flying test and received her PPL, making her the 72nd female pilot in Canada. She was 22 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #72 – Flo Elliott (1917-2012)

Photo: Tiddley Times (1945) – the Wrens newspaper

On 13 November 1940, Flo became the 15th women to hold a commercial pilot’s licence in Canada. She said this was her “holy grail” and immediately applied to join the RCAF. They refused, unless she wanted to be a secretary, so she joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service instead.

On 22 July 1944, Flo married James Herbert Whyard. She was a WRCNS sub-lieutenant working as public relations officer with the Directorate of Naval Information in Ottawa. James was assistant engineer with the Department of Mines and Resources.

After the war, the couple moved to Yellowknife where they had three children. They then moved to Whitehorse, where James was to provide mapping and claim services.

Flo was a reporter for the Whitehorse Star, then editor. In 1974, she began a career in politics – serving as a Member of the Yukon Legislative Assembly for four years, then as Mayor of Whitehorse in 1981-1984. She was also fascinated with Yukon history and wrote several books on prominent inhabitants, including Ernie Boffa (Yukon bush pilot) and Martha Black (the second woman elected to the House of Commons of Canada).

Flo received the Order of Canada and was given an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from her university. She also had the Yukon’s legislative press gallery named after her.

Flo died in 2012, aged 95.

The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots

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