First Female Canadian Military Pilot

Canadian Major-General (retired) Wendy Clay.

Canadian Major-General (retired) Wendy Clay.

It seems strange to me in 2014 to think that while I have been on this planet, women were still being treated differently than men.

Oh sure… I’m not naive enough to think that there is perfect equality, but at least there aren’t any restrictions on what a woman can or can not do for an occupation. Progress, at least.

But back on this date, August 30, a mere 40 years ago, women in Canada’s military were not yet treated as equals.

It was on this date in 1974 that then Major Wendy A. Clay, native of British Columbia, Canada who was already a doctor… qualified as a pilot… but had to wait six more years to 1980 before the pilot classification is opened up to all women.

As of 2014, Major-General (retired) Wendy Clay is a retired Surgeon General, quite the impressive job title, as the position implies she is/was the professional head of the Canadian military health jurisdiction, the adviser to the Minister of National Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff on all matters related to health, and head of the Royal Canadian Medical Service, and is also the Commander of the Canadian Forces Health Service Group.

Clay’s military career began in 1965 as a medical student, under the Medical Officer Training Plan.

Clay certainly must have enjoyed her time in the Canadian military, because by 1970, she rose to the rank of Major,  to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1977, to Brigadier-General in July of 1989, and promoted in September 1994 to the rank of Major-General.

One month later in October 1994, Clay was appointed Surgeon General.

Here’s a list of impressive FIRSTS for Clay:

  • First female officer cadet in the Royal Canadian Navy;
  • First female medical officer in the Armed Forces;
  • First woman to receive a degree in aviation medicine;
  • First woman to graduate Canadian military basic pilot training;
  • First woman to qualify for Canadian military pilot’s wings;
  • First woman to qualify for the Canadian Forces Parachute Demonstration Team, the SkyHawks;
  • First woman in the Canadian Forces to achieve the rank of Major-General.

That is one impressive resume and one impressive person.

As an aside, it wasn’t until 1965 that Canada allowed a maximum of 1,500 women to serve directly in all three branches of its armed forces, disbanding other “women’s services”. Prior to that, in WWI women could serve in the medical fields, and WWII and the Korean War, Canadian women could serve in the military doing every single job a man could do – driving, mechanics, cooking, ditch digging, whatever – except fight.

It wasn’t until 1982 that women in Canada were able to join the military and fight.

And if you think that is late, note that it wasn’t until 2002 that women were permitted to serve on Canadian submarines… but it wasn’t until 2003 that Master Seaman Colleen Beattie became the first female submariner – a mere 11 years ago.

That the military sexism in Canada went on for so long, makes me very ashamed.

And if you think that is bad, the U.S. still has numerous restrictions against women in the military – see HERE.

About mreman47

Andrew was born in London, UK, raised in Toronto, Canada, and cavorted in Ohtawara, Japan for three years. He is married, has a son and a cat. He has over 35,000 comic books and a plethora of pioneer aviation-related tobacco and sports cards and likes to build LEGO dioramas. He has written and been an editor for various industrial magazines, has scripted comic books, ghost-written blogs for business sectors galore, and hates writing in the 3rd person. He also hates having to write this crap that no one will ever read. He works on his Pioneers Of Aviation - a cool blog on early fliers - even though it takes him so much time to do. He also wants to do more writing - for money, though. Help him out so he can stop talking in the 3rd person.
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