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Women Aren't Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of…

Women Aren't Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon

by Harriet Hall

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This is a fascinating memoir of one of the first female flight surgeons and the battles she endured not only in the Air Force and earning her pilot wings, but also in medical school itself. This isn't necessarily what I would call a traditional autobiography that many people maybe used to, where it reads more like a story (probably because so many today are written with the help of ghost writers.)

Instead Harriet tells her life story in short brief blurbs with brief factual statements and some of these blurbs/statements only last a paragraph before jumping to the next one without much of a transition. And while it's a bit distracting at first, it actually makes a much more compelling memoir because it feels more grounded in reality. It almost feels like we're having a casual conversation with her which makes it that much easier to follow the story...and is fantastic ( )
  zzshupinga | Feb 26, 2012 |
August 2008

This memoir follows a brilliant young woman through the difficult decisions we all must make, career, love, education and family. Harriet knew from an early age that she wanted to be a doctor, at that time female doctors were not unknown, just rare. Rarer still were female Air Force doctors. The story of her struggle to succeed and excel will inspire both genders. Remembrances of the discrimination and sexual harassment will make the reader shudder with annoyance at the stupidity, we must remember that this all takes place in another era, and people like Harriet Hall helped change opinions and policies, making it possible to see doctors as genderless occupations.

I want to point out one comment she makes about the “lipstick test” only because it recently happened in my life, I had no idea that doctors actually looked to see if a female patient wore lipstick as a sign that she is feeling good that day. My mother’s doctor during a visit commented on my mom having a really red shade on and that she must be feeling much better, (and she was). Funny because I thought that doctors are so rushed off their feet that they have little time to notice these things, but maybe that is the reason they notice them, because they have so little time they must look for small indicators.

I am delighted to learn that Harriet majored in Spanish for her BA, I had no idea that is even a possibility for a medical student, she also mentions music majors entering medical school. I learned a lot about learning to fly, how the military and hospitals work. This is a great fun read that I would recommend to any student unsure about their future plans, they will learn to just keep moving forward, take on opportunities that are offered to you, and somehow it will all turn out okay in the end. It may not be where you planned on being, but it should be a good place.

I am disappointed only that very little is mentioned of Harriet’s involvement in the Skeptical community, (though the Bidlack reference is a gem). I suppose that because this is only the first 40 years of the authors life, she is waiting to finish the next 40 before she writes the next volume. She mentions that her retirement years have kept her so busy that she can’t figure out how she found time to work. Somehow I believe this.

24-2008 ( )
  sgerbic | Aug 12, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0595499589, Paperback)

When Harriet Hall graduated from medical school in 1970 and entered the Air Force, she was in a distinct minority. As the second woman ever to do an Air Force internship, she had to fight for acceptance. Even a patient's 3 year old daughter proclaimed, "Oh, Daddy! That's not a doctor, that's a lady." She was refused a residency, paid less than her male counterparts, couldn't live on base, and couldn't claim her husband as a dependent because he wasn't a wife. After six years as a general medical officer in Franco's Spain, she became a family practice specialist and a flight surgeon, doing everything from delivering babies to flying a B-52. She earned her pilot's license despite being told "Women aren't supposed to fly," and eventually retired from the Air Force as a full colonel. She is witness to an era when society was beginning to accept women in traditionally male jobs but didn't entirely like the idea yet. A somewhat warped sense of humor kept her afloat, and it spices the stories she tells about her own experiences and the patients and colleagues she encountered.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:39 -0400)

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