Canadian Aviatrix #9 – Nellie Carson (1900-1949)

Nellie Irene Carson was born on 12 November 1900 in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, to James Carson (a rancher) and Sarah Ellen O’Dell. Nellie was the fourth child of eleven.

1901

1911

1916

1921

 

Ebenezer SK

Mackenzie SK

Good Lake SK

Good Lake SK

James

40

50

55

60

Sarah (1st wife)

24

33

38

-

Helen (2nd wife)

-

-

-

41

Jean

4

14

-

24 (Mrs Large)

John

2

-

-

-

Edwyn

1

-

-

-

Nellie

4m

10

15

20 [with aunt]

William

-

8

13

18

Elsie

-

7

12

-

Vera

-

4

9

-

Mary

-

2

7

12

James

-

-

4

9

Sadie

-

-

3

8

Evelyn

-

-

-

2

Infant

-

-

-

1m (Helen's)

Jean A Large

-

-

-

11m (Jean's)

 

Edwyn died in 1904 (aged 4) and John died in 1907 (aged 8).

Sarah died in March 1919 (aged 41) and James got remarried in January 1920, to Helen – originally from Germany and had been married before with children of her own. The couple had an additional two children, but it wasn’t a happy marriage. Helen left James in 1924 and said that he had been cruel to her from the start. James said that she had displayed a “mean, vindictive, nagging disposition” and constant friction had caused Mary to leave home.

In the 1921 census, Nellie was recorded at her maternal aunt’s house in Mackenzie, Saskatchewan – she was 20 years old and a stenographer. In 1923, she became a patient at Fort Qu’Appelle Sanatorium – the province’s leading treatment centre for tuberculosis. Once recovered, she moved to Saskatoon, and in 1925, started working as a secretary for Dr Harvey Boughton at the newly opened Saskatoon Sanatorium.

On 12 October 1929, Nellie passed her flying test and received PPL #384, making her the ninth female pilot in Canada and joint first in Saskatchewan (Grayce Hutchinson was the other). She was 28 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #9 - Nellie Carson (1900-1949)

Photo: Star Phoenix (January 17, 1948) 

In 1931, she created the altitude record for women flyers in Canada – flying a Gypsy Moth up to 16,000 feet (with no oxygen!). Attendants who helped her get out of her airplane said she was nearly frozen.

In 1936, Nellie took part in the competition to name a Queen for the Saskatoon Exhibition. She had a late surge of votes and was in first place for a while, but was eventually overtaken and finished in fifth place.

When war broke out, Nellie tried to join the RCAF as a pilot, but was turned down. Instead, she joined the administration branch of the Canadian Women's Auxiliary Air Force. She was adjutant of two RCAF hospitals in Vancouver and held the rank of section officer.

In 1946, Nellie became the first woman president of a Canadian Legion branch when she was appointed to the sanatorium’s Legion unit, made up of veterans who were or had been TB patients.

Sadly, Nellie ended up as a patient of the sanatorium where she was Chief Clerk and died of TB in 1949, aged 48.

The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots

 

 

 

 

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