Education on women’s impact in air, space takes flight through area museum

by Judy Stringer 

It’s no secret that Northeast Ohio is home to world-class museums like the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Great Lakes Science Center, but among its more modest and lesser-known exhibition spaces is the International Women’s Air & Space Museum.

Located at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, the museum’s mission is to collect, preserve and showcase the history and culture of women in aviation and aerospace and to educate others about their contributions, according to Executive Director Sara Fisher.

“We have exhibits on Mercury 13, for example, and Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II and all the women who have been to space from around the world,” she said.

Thanks to a recent state grant, IWASM will use its unique insight and expertise to create in-classroom supplemental resources for teachers of grades 7-12 that will explore the dynamic history of women and Ohio’s roles in the development of air and space history. 

“For more than 120 years, women like Katharine Wright, the Curtiss-Wright Cadettes, and so many more have been footnotes to our collective history,” Fisher said. “Through this project, we will work to ensure that their stories are shared with students statewide to understand where we’ve come and where we will go as a state and a nation.”

The grant is part of a $1 million pot Ohio has put aside for projects that celebrate and commemorate American’s fast-approaching semiquincentennial. In 2026, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. IWASM was one of 23 recipients chosen from the more than 70 statewide applicants during the grant program’s fall 2023 funding cycle.

The 48-year-old IWASM is free and open to the public daily from 8 a.m-8 p.m. Fisher said there are a number of interactive exhibits designed for young visitors.

The museum was originally located in the Dayton area and moved to Cleveland in 1999. Besides the larger accommodations at Burke, Fisher said the move made sense because the museum has strong ties to the Cleveland National Airshow and Cleveland was the final destination of the historic 1929 Women’s Air Derby, the first official women-only air race in the U.S.

“Many of the women showcased in the museums have links to that derby, which was also called the Powder Puff Derby,” she said.

For more information on the museum, visit ∞