March 13 - Women’s History Month Profile: Hazel Ying Lee

Hazel Ying Lee was the first Chinese American woman aviator and pioneered women’s roles in the air. In 1912, she was born in Portland, Oregon, with Chinese immigrant parents. Growing up, only a few opportunities existed for women and she was expected to be an elevator operator, a common occupation for women at the time. However, Lee did not want “invisible jobs” for women; her passion was to be a pilot. Being a pilot at the time for Chinese American women was unthinkable, as stereotypes reinforced their image as passive and weak, and flying as a role much reserved for men at the time. However, Lee realized her dream when she applied and was accepted into the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) and flew high-powered and advanced fighter planes, which she transported from their factories. Most importantly, her role as an aviator left a pressing reminder for gender equality.