On August 18, 1929, the First Women's Air Derby was held. Twenty women entered the nine-day race.
It was a test of strength both physical and mental, and all the contestants were ready. From Santa
Monica California, they flew over the deserts of Arizonan with temperatures well over 100
degrees . . . added to it was the heat of exhaust fumes blasting back into their faces from the
engines--open cockpits, leather helmets, heavy goggles. They looked for railroad tracks and water
towers with city names painted on the rooftops; this was called dead reckoning. Instruments were
minimal. They confronted dust storms and turbulence that forced a few to land. That not being
enough, they dealt with sabotage, death, the trauma of being told they were not suited for
competition and flying by a powerful group of male protestors. Nevertheless, they persevered to their
destination: Cleveland, Ohio.
In this race Louise Thaden was the winner and Gladys O'Donnell, who
entered the race with only 40 hours of solo flying time, came in second. Amelia Earhart was
In 1930, Gladys O'Donnell entered the Women's Air Derby again. This time she had the plane
of her dreams--a Waco Taperwing. She was determined to make her mark in aviation history, and she
did. She won that race, returned to Long Beach and was given a heroine's celebration, complete with a
parade through the streets direct to City Hall where the Mayor awarded her the keys to the
city. All of this was followed by a sumptuous banquet at the Pacific Coast Club.
Her dreams were materializing.
That was 75 years ago, and yet on August 18, 2005, in the city of Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of
Las Vegas, pioneer flyer Gladys O'Donnell was honored further when a celebration commemorating
her determination and dedication to the achievement of her goals was memorialized by Desert Capital
REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust), Inc., in their spacious, new headquarters in Henderson.
The day officially honored Gladys
O'Donnell and Desert Capital, REIT Inc., an outstanding corporate citizen, with proclamations
signed by Mayor James B. Gibson of Henderson, and Governor of Nevada, Kenny C. Guinn, because
Desert Capital REIT, Inc. had chosen to restore a genuine American artifact, the original wing
from Gladys O'Donnell's Waco Taperwing, which was transformed into a remarkably beautiful
conference table encased in glass and 23 feet in length. They felt her determination and
subsequent victory was the spirit they wished to emulate in the corporate world of business.
The artists who performed the magic transformation are David Hall and Donavan Fell of MotoArt
Enterprises in Torrance, California. Credit for this spectacular restoration goes to the
innovative thinking and éclat taste of Todd Parriott, President and Chairman of the Board of
Desert Capital REIT,Inc.
Words spoken in acceptance of the honors bestowed on the memory of Gladys O¹Donnell, August 18, 2005 in the
corporate offices of Desert Capital REIT, Inc,. Henderson Nevada follow:
"To take wing is to rise above, to reach beyond the ordinary. That is what Gladys O¹Donnell did with such unrelenting
determination and conviction that her goals were worthy of such effort."
"Her airplane was symbolic of a freedom women of her day had not experienced. She stepped forward and others followed."
"She never doubted her strength. She was purpose-driven."
"In choosing to honor her pioneering achievements with the creation of this impressive work of art, you have taken
wing (as it were). May you rise above and reach beyond the ordinary in all you do at Desert Capital REIT, Inc."
Desert Capital REIT, Inc. is located at:
1291 Galleria Drive
Henderson, NV 89014
-- Lorraine O'Donnell Doyle, daughter of Gladys O'Donnell