Canadian Aviatrix #75 – Gladys Smirle (1910-1972)

Gladys Marjory Smirle was born around 1910 in New York to George McMillan Smirle (telegraph operator) and Lauda Clare Sparham

1905 census

1910 census

1921 census

Rochester NY

Lyons NY

Ottawa ON

George

35

30

41

Lauda

21

26

37

Guernsey

-

3

14

Gladys

-

6m

11

 

Gladys graduated from Glebe Collegiate in 1928 and held several trophies for swimming. Her skills were required when she helped to rescue a five year old boy who fell into the Rideau Canal. Jack MacDonell had been throwing rocks into the water when he lost his balance. Earl Sims (aged 11) jumped in and grabbed the little boy, managing to keep him afloat. Gladys was on her way back to work after her lunch break when she heard shouting and jumped in when she saw the boys. Her biggest concern was after the rescue, when the crowd hurried away with the unconscious boy and she was left alone in the water behind a cement wall – her clothes were weighing her down and she was worried she wouldn’t be able to get out. Eventually, she managed to pull herself out, went home for dry clothes, then went back to work!

Gladys joined the Ottawa Flying Club and was one of “Rockcliffe’s Four Flying Ladies” with Margaret Rankine-Smith, Muriel Munn, and Edith Treau de Coeli. Gladys, Edith and Margaret worked as civil servants in the Post Office Department. All the women said they intended to offer their services in the event of war. When Elianne Roberge tried to organize women pilots to ferry planes across the country, the Ottawa women all volunteered.

On 15 January 1940, Gladys passed her flying test and received her PPL, making her the 75th female pilot in Canada. She was 30 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #75 – Gladys Smirle (1910-1972) 

Photo: Star Phoenix (September 12, 1939)

On 23 June 1942, Gladys married Flying Officer Eric Kenneth Jones. (Muriel and Margaret threw a bridal shower for her.) The couple honeymooned in Montreal, before settling in Ottawa. They had one son.

Gladys was in the Women’s Association of the Kingsway United Church and the Women of Rotary. She was also an active member of Beta Sigma Phi – an international women's social, cultural and service organization. She was on the executive for the Ottawa chapter, including being President in 1966-67 and attending the National Convention in “centennial costume”.

In 1964, the Smirle family held a reunion, celebrating Guernsey’s daughters visiting from California and staying in Canada for a week-long visit.

Gladys died in 1972, aged 62.

The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots 

 

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