I'm proud to be here tonight... People asked me today out there as the statue was
unveiled what do the WASP mean to you? Let me tell you.
I was 7 years old when the WASP were disbanded and my
aunt Winnie came home from the war. And shortly thereafter, some other WASP came to Miami
and they became the part and parcel of our lives. We owned them. I owned Dot Swain, Bobby
owned Doris G, Margie and Maggie had a fight between Leala Lowder and Carol Bailey and I
think Marty got Lelah. and Maggie got Caro. But they were extraordinary.
I can still see Aunt Winnie coming home in the blue
uniform. She was a heroine to me. And then Dot came down and she was Miss Ophelia Jones in
the air show. She put a funny hat and old lady stocking shoes and she went out and flew
this plane like she learned to fly in this plane. And Kaddie Landry gave me the first
plane ride I ever had. And Doris G and Leala. Landry told me about Texas and I never
understood what Texas was all about and I still didn't understand particularly after
listening to Doris G why Texas was so important. And Kaddie bossed us around, Mildred
Caldwell was wonderful to us. And they were extrodinary.
Because what they did was...I had the impression when I
talked to one of them that I wasn't going to do anything bad, I wasn't going do anything
disrespectful. And it was not so much that I was going to get punished if I did except
maybe by Kaddie Landry and Doris G would tell me what she thought of me. But more
important I didn't want to disappoint them.
And then, I read the book, and then I heard the stories
all over again. And I thought, I can do that. I can do anything I really want to do as
long as its' the right thing to do and I put my mind to it. Because those ladies went and
flew planes and for as long as I live. Sometimes in these last two months, as I've dealt
with some of the difficult issues, I think of what it was like flying over the donner
pass...and she couldn't establish radio contact with Reno and the left engine was
beginning to sound rough...and some how or another...the story continues, you can do
anything you want to if it's the right thing to do and you put your mind to it.
But then I met other people along the way. Suds came to town. Suds
looked at me like there's one of those young Reno's my goodness...she like the others --
twinkled -- and even though Caddie Landry said she didn't want anything to do with
children she didn't know why anybody had children...they all seemed to love us, Suds
Then I met my own WASP. Separate and independent from Aunt Winnie's WASPs
as I called them. I went to high school and one of my teacher's in high school, Felicia
west was a WASP and she taught me ever so much about how to play fair, how to be a
good sport, how to loose, and how to pick yourself up and win again and do it the right
And then I came out to California and Suds and Mary Nelson and Dot Swain and so
many others made me feel welcome. That summer and I began to see what the WASP were doing.
They were going beyond the dedication to the nation. They were becoming great artists,
they were doing things in their community, they were becomming teachers, they were making
a difference, they were raising families. I think that's the first summer I saw Chig
beginning to grow up instead of just a little baby.
Then I went to Cornell and I met another WASP all on my own, only it was with the help of
another aunt and that's when I met Dawn Seymore and thought, another heroine. And to those
of you who are between the ages of 25 and 30 let me tell you that a seven year old child,
about 48 years ago, was touched again and again and again by women 25 to 30...who have
made a profound and distinguished difference in my life.
But they keep coming back. They never leave. You go out to see your Aunt
Winnie and you see Doris G and it's like Doris G never changed and she sounds exactly the
same, she's as bossy as ever, she's opinionated as ever, and she still loves Texas even if
she lives in California. And Dot Swain doesn't look a day older, and she can still play
the guitar and do as she did as she did around the campfires 48 years ago, she can still
sing 'Those Brown Eyes".
These ladies have taught me ever so much. They have given me strength
and understanding. They have reached out and touched me as a child, as a teenager, as a
college student, as a young woman, as somebody being mentioned for Attorney General, and
in the darkest loneliest days of these last two months, the WASP have been there, every
step of the way.
And what they have taught me...
Think of what these ladies have been thru, us who are younger who think
we face so many challenges. These ladies grew up in a depression. When you took a can of
tuna fish and shared it between a family of 5 and made it go... and then shared with some
more people along the way...and you don't feel sorry for yourself, you remember those
times those extraordinary times when people shared. And you went off to war to help defend
a nation against one of the worst tyrants in the history of the World and you remember it
with pride and vigor and you remember the fun stories along the way and you remember those
you lost with pride and honor.
The WASP are not fancy people. You don't go into a WASP house...I
haven't been into a WASP house that was that particularly fancy. They just are themselves.
They're just real wonderful great honest opinionated people. They went off to serve their
country. And think about it...look at our young people today. How many young people to you
think would pay their own way to go serve their country and fight for freedom-- the WASP
did it . And they serve as an example for all of us, let's go pay our way and fight for
They taught me as I've said that women can do anything they really
want to do if it's the right thing to do . They taught me loyalty. Boy these women
can get into fights with each other but they always make up. And they taught me about
friendship and family and they have interweaved through my family as if they had become a
part of it. But most of all I think the WASP had to fly airplanes. They had to get that
plane back on the ground. And if they didn't get it back on the ground, the buck stopped
with them. And they had to do the right thing in the air and they've done the right thing
on the ground ever since, and they've been accountable for it...and they've had...been a
remarkable inspiration for so many of us.
And now I'd like to challenge you all...the fight is not over. In these
last few days and even before, you all have taught me that the next 30 years are going to
be a wonderful time... 40 years are going to be a wonderful time....I'm going to grow old
and have a throughly good time and fight and care and continue to care about American and
never give up, cause you all if you can fly all over this country and do everything that
you're doing and be as wonderful and as graceful as you are we got a long time to do some
And I would like you to join me in a challenge. You helped weave the
fabric of society around me, my brothers , my sister, you have been a part of our life,
our family. But there are an awful lot of children in America who have no family no
structure around them. There are babies brought into a world of poverty, of a mother who's
not there of a father they've never seen. There are other children with plenty of money in
the world who's parents don't give a darn cause they're more interested in material things
rather than what's right and what's wonderful in this world. And somehow or another all
of America has to join together to reweave the fabric of society around our children who
are the future.
All of us...the WASP, the attorney's general (ETC) everybody who cares
about the future of America have got to reach out and let children know that they're
accountable. That if they do something wrong there's gonna be a WASP being disappointed.
There's gonna be a Doris G hollering at em...there's gonna be a Kaddie Landry speaking
sharply to them, and most of all there's gonna be an Aunt Winnie looking at them very
disapprovingly. And if you've ever been looked at by an Aunt Winnie very disapprovingly,
you know what that can mean. But if you've ever been looked at by an Aunt Winnie or the
WASP with all the love and affection that I've been looked at this day and for the last 50
years, you will know what we have to give our children.
And let us join together to remember that the fight is not over and to
remember the last two verses from the book of Malich, "and behold I shall send you
the prophet Elijah before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord and he
shall return the heart of the father to the children and the children's hearts to their
fathers lest I come down and smite the earth with a curse.
God bless you all."
WASP by Winifred Wood
with illustrations by Dot Swain . Self published, 1978. Delightful
book written by WASP Winnie Wood. RARE -- AUTOGRAPHED BOOKS
available by special request.