Katharine Stinson Papers 1937-2001

Stinson, Katharine
2 linear feet

For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Special Collections Research Center Reference Staff.

Call number
MC 00256

The Katharine Stinson Papers contains items detailing her work in the aviation industry and her experiences as a student and an alumnus of North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering. The collection is comprised of professional documents, photographs, correspondence, video and audiotaped oral histories, periodical articles and clippings, and printed and artifactual memorabilia. Materials describe Stinson's life and achievements between 1937 and 2001.

Biographical/historical note

Katharine Stinson was born in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina on September 18, 1917. She became interested in aviation as a child and took her first plane ride at age ten with famed World War I pilot Eddie Stinson (no relation). This initial experience with flight made her determined to become a pilot. As a teenager, Stinson assisted mechanics at the Raleigh Airport and received flying lessons as payment. While working at the airport, she met Amelia Earhart, who encouraged her to obtain an aeronautical engineering degree as well as a pilot's license.

Heeding Earhart's advice, Stinson enrolled in high school physics courses to prepare for the engineering program at N. C. State College. When she refused a scholarship to Meredith College and started to enroll at State College, Stinson encountered resistance from Engineering School Dean Wallace C. Riddick. When Riddick would not accept her without junior standing, Stinson regained her Meredith scholarship, completed 48 semester hours in one year, and entered the State College engineering program in 1937. As Riddick reneged on his earlier promise, Stinson gained admission as a freshman. One of the few female students at the university and the only female student in the engineering program, Stinson graduated from N. C. State in 1941 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering with an aeronautical option. She was the first woman to graduate from the Engineering School and one of five women in the United States to earn a degree in engineering or architecture that year.

Stinson accepted a position with the Civil Aviation Administration in 1941, when World War II created a dearth of male employees in the aviation industry. The CAA, presently known as the Federal Aviation Administration, hired her as its first woman engineer. Stinson became assistant chief and later chief of the CAA Aircraft Engineering Division Specifications Staff. From 1964 until 1973, when she retired, Stinson was technical assistant to the chief of the FAA Aircraft Engineering Division. In her early years with the CAA, Stinson examined and modified flaws in military aircraft. She also transformed light aircraft into gliders for teaching World War II pilots and reconfigured the gliders into motored aircraft for post-war use. Furthermore, she developed an assessment and type certification process for using military planes in civil aviation after World War II. Stinson investigated aviation accidents, sometimes using X-Ray to examine planes. She issued airworthiness directives, or memoranda concerning planes' structural failings and appropriate counteractive measures. Rather than sending the directives to specific aircraft holders via telegram, Stinson sent them to airports, airplane producers and mechanics, and air travel companies via cards. As a result, she reached more aircraft users and established a prototype for aviation regulators in other countries. Stinson also helped formulate FAA guidelines for airplane planning, construction, operation, and authorization.

Stinson claimed membership in several organizations. In 1945, she joined the 99s, an association for woman aviators, and served as treasurer. Stinson then helped found the Society of Women Engineers. She served as SWE president from 1953 to 1955. Subsequently, Stinson served on President Lyndon Johnson's Women's Advisory Committee on Aviation from 1964 to 1970. WACOA counseled FAA officials on technical, instructive, and employment aspects of civil air transportation and evaluated the FAA's utility for consumers. She also belonged to the Soroptimist Club, an international women's service association similar to the Rotary Club. Stinson was Soroptimist president from 1970 to 1972. Additionally, she served as an officer for the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences and as a member of the Employment and Women's Committees of Richard Nixon's Committee for the Handicapped.

Stinson maintained ties to N. C. State after graduation. The university named her an honorary member of Phi Kappa Phi in 1966. In 1971, Stinson became the first and only woman to win the N.C. State University Alumni Association Distinguished Engineering Alumnus award. From 1971 to 1974, she served as the first woman on the NCSU Alumni Association's board of directors. Stinson established scholarships in her name and in NCSU women's basketball coach Kay Yow's name. The university honored Stinson by naming Stinson Drive for her in 1997 and by conferring an honorary doctorate on her in 1999.

Stinson's numerous other honors include the FAA Sustained Superior Performance Award (1961), the Distinguished Women in the Aerospace Industry Award (1984), and the Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Aviation Pioneer of the Year and Aerospace Engineer of the Year awards (1987 and 1988). She died in Pinehurst, North Carolina on July 29, 2001.


The Katharine Stinson Papers contains Stinson's professional documents, photographs, correspondence, video and audiotaped oral histories, newspaper, magazine, and newsletter articles and clippings, and printed and artifactual memorabilia. These materials relate to Stinson's career in the aviation industry and commitment to aircraft safety. Items also relate to her experiences as a N. C. State College undergraduate and distinguished alumnus.

The Professionals Materials series contains memoranda, rosters, publicity materials, photographs, essays, resumes, and certificates and awards relating to Stinson's work with the CAA, the FAA, the WACOA, and various professional organizations.

The Correspondence series is comprised of personal and professional letters concerning Stinson's alumni relations with N. C. State and work and achievements in the aviation industry. Most letters are incoming, but some are filed with copies of Stinson's replies.

The Oral Histories series includes video and audiotaped interviews with Stinson. The interviews address her personal history, her years at State College, and her career in aviation and engineering.

The Publicity series contains magazine, newsletter, and newspaper articles and clippings, public relations and educational pamphlets, and photographs. These materials relate to Stinson's status as a woman engineer and receipt of distinctions and awards. Some articles are filed with drafts and relevant personal letters and notes.

The Memorabilia series is composed of artifacts, printed materials and photographs concerning N. C. State, Stinson, and assorted topics unrelated to N. C. State and Stinson.

Physical description

4 archival storage box


Five series-Professional Materials, Correspondence, Oral Histories, Publicity, and Memorabilia-have been created from the collection's original disorder. Newspaper clippings have been copied onto acid-free paper. Oversized certificates, some of which were removed from their frames, have been rehoused in flat files. All other items remain in their initial state.

Use of these materials

North Carolina State University does not own copyright to this collection. Individuals obtaining materials from the NCSU Libraries' Special Collections Research Center are responsible for using the works in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Katharine Stinson Papers, MC 00256, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC

Source of acquisition

Katharine Stinson donated materials in the Oral Histories series on August 18, 1998.

The collection is organized into five principal series:

Professional Materials 1941-1988 (MC 256 Series 01)
Size: 0.375 linear feet

This series contains a variety of materials relating to Stinson's professional endeavors between 1941 and 1988. Documents are arranged into six chronologically ordered subseries-CAA/FAA, WACOA, Writings, Resume Information, Award Nominations, and Certificates. The CAA/FAA subseries contains directives and memoranda addressing aircraft standards and performance. Photographs in the CAA/FAA subseries feature Stinson and other women in aviation-related settings and a storefront window exhibit about women in the FAA. Letters relating to Stinson's work with the CAA and FAA are filed in the Correspondence series. The WACOA subseries contains agendas, rosters, and publicity materials addressing the committee's formation, mission, and membership. WACOA subseries photographs feature Stinson and other members performing various activities at committee meetings. The Writings subseries contains essays Stinson published in the Civil Aeronautics Journal and Agricultural Aviation concerning the utility of plastics in aviation and the utility of planes in farming. The subseries also includes a paper Stinson presented at an SWE convention tracing the CAA's development and work with air travel hazards. The Resume Information subseries contains Stinson's formal resumes and brief personal and professional histories. Nominations for the Federal Woman's Award, the Society of Women Engineers Award, and the Society of Women Engineers' "Over 35 Award" underscore Stinson's competence. Certificates include Stinson's N. C. State College diploma and awards and certificates from various government agencies and professional organizations.

0.75 archival boxes

CAA/FAA Materials 1942-1968
Box 1, Folder 1
Box 1, Folder 2
[no date]
Box 1, Folder 3
Box 1, Folder 4
[no date, folder 1 of 11]
Box 1, Folder 5
[no date, folder 2 of 11]
Box 1, Folder 6
[no date, folder 3 of 11]
Box 1, Folder 7
[no date, folder 4 of 11]
Box 1, Folder 8
[no date, folder 5 of 11]
Box 1, Folder 9
[no date, folder 6 of 11]
Box 1, Folder 10
[no date, folder 7 of 11]
Box 1, Folder 11
[no date, folder 8 of 11]
Box 1, Folder 12
[no date, folder 9 of 11]
Box 1, Folder 13
[no date, folder 10 of 11]
Box 1, Folder 14
[no date, folder 11 of 11]
Box 1, Folder 15
WACOA Materials
Box 1, Folder 16
Box 1, Folder 17
[no date]
Box 1, Folder 18
Box 1, Folder 19
[no date]
Box 1, Folder 20
[folder 1 of 3] 1967
Box 1, Folder 21
[folder 2 of 3] 1967
Box 1, Folder 22
[folder 3 of 3] 1967
Box 1, Folder 23
[folder 1 of 6] 1968
Box 1, Folder 24
[folder 2 of 6] 1968
Box 1, Folder 25
[folder 3 of 6] 1968
Box 1, Folder 26
[folder 4 of 6] 1968
Box 1, Folder 27
[folder 5 of 6] 1968
Box 1, Folder 28
[folder 6 of 6] 1968
Box 1, Folder 29
Writings 1943-1969
Box 1, Folder 30
Resume Information
Box 1, Folder 31
[no date]
Box 1, Folder 32
Award Nominations 1966-1967
Box 1, Folder 33
Certificates 1941-1988
Box 1, Folder 34
Correspondence 1946-2001 (MC 256 Series 02)
Size: 0.125 linear feet

This series contains letters and invitations sent to Stinson between 1946 and 2001. Items are arranged chronologically, and most of them relate to Stinson's professional endeavors. The bulk of the correspondence is incoming, but some documents are filed with a copy of Stinson's response. Early letters concern Stinson's CAA and FAA work with airplane standards, licensure, and accident investigation, and her WACOA work. Later correspondence pertains to Stinson's retirement from the FAA, receipt of various agency awards, and alumni relations with State College. Letters concerning interviews and addresses Stinson gave or was asked to give appear throughout the series. The series contains several notable items. 1949 and 1950 letters concern use of a Met-L-Prop propeller to set a lightweight plane altitude record. A 1950 letter mistaking Stinson for the sister of aviator Eddie Stinson describes ideas for a movie about Eddie Stinson's life. 1951 correspondence addresses the CAA's inquiry into a N. C. State College professor's death in a TWA boat accident. 1971 and 1988 letters concern Stinson's receipt of the NCSU Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award and endowment of the Katharine Stinson Scholarship. 1997 and 1999 letters document the naming of Stinson Drive and the conferral of Stinson's honorary doctorate. Notable correspondents in this series include Civil Air Patrol National Commander Earle L. Johnson and Army Air Force Deputy Commander Ira C. Baker, North Carolina Governor Robert W. Scott, NCSU Chancellors Larry Montieth and Marye Anne Fox, State College women's basketball coach Kay Yow, and North Carolina Senator Ellie Kinnaird.

0.25 archival boxes

Box 1, Folder 35
Box 1, Folder 36
Box 1, Folder 37
Box 1, Folder 38
Box 1, Folder 39
Box 1, Folder 40
Box 1, Folder 41
[no date]
Box 1, Folder 42
Oral Histories 1997-1998 (MC 256 Series 03)
Size: 0.375 linear feet

This series contains four videotaped and audiotaped interviews and oral histories conducted with Stinson between 1997 and 1998. Items are arranged in chronological order, and one undated oral history appears at the end of the series. Stinson provides some information about her family and her personal interests. She speaks at length about her early love of aviation, her years at N. C. State, and her career with the CAA and FAA. Stinson also discusses her work with WACOA, SWE, and the Soroptimists and makes observations about N. C. State's campus, employment opportunities for women, and innovations in aviation technology.

0.75 archival boxes

Box 2
"Katharine Stinson: Aviation Pioneer," show #2713 of North Carolina People with William Friday [VHS and Betacam tapes] September 26, 1997

In this interview, Stinson discusses her early encounters with Amelia Earhart and N.C. State College Engineering School Dean Wallace C. Riddick. She also talks about developments in the aviation industry and the qualities of successful women. Stinson's other comments concern the naming of Stinson Drive on N.C. State's campus, the development of N.C. State's Centennial Campus, and her life in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Oral history conducted by Russell Koontz and Linda McCormick [microtape] August 7, 1998

Stinson discusses her parents and siblings, noting their ancestry, occupation, and/or education. She mentions her family's skepticism towards her course of study at N. C. State and her career choice. Subsequently, she comments on her childhood preoccupation with planes and her encounters with Eddie Stinson and Amelia Earhart. Stinson then mentions that, since she and Eddie Stinson's famous aviator sister had the same name, people confused her with Eddie Stinson's sister. Thereafter, Stinson comments at length on her experiences at State College starting with her initial encounter with Wallace C. Riddick. She notes the scarcity of female students at the university, as well as the lack of women's dormitories and restrooms. As she had nowhere to live on campus, Stinson notes, she lived with the head of the Mechanical Engineering department and his wife. Stinson goes on to describe her coursework's difficulty, her professors' hostility towards her, and her male classmates' tolerance for her. She describes attending a dance when she was inducted into the National Order of Saint Patrick, an honorary society for engineering students. However, she remarks that she and other female students lacked a campus social life.

Oral history conducted by Russell Koontz and Linda McCormick [microtape] September 22, 1998-September 23, 1998

Stinson discusses her experiences at Meredith College, starting with her lobbying for reinstatement of the scholarship she turned down to attend State College. She describes the effort it required to complete 48 hours of coursework in one year at the college, and she reveals that she took correspondence courses in engineering during that time. Regarding her years at State College, Stinson notes her involvement with the Collegiate Flying Club and reiterates the different receptions she received from male professors and classmates. She reveals that professors assigned her tasks like cleaning the classrooms and carrying heavy equipment and refused to let her classmates assist her. Subsequently, Stinson elaborates upon her work for the CAA regarding airplane specifications, testing, and licensure. She remarks that, because she was a woman, airplane manufacturers disagreed with her grounding of PanAm planes that failed inspection. Additionally, Stinson talks about airplane construction, aerospace computer technology, her work with international regulations for supersonic transport, and her involvement with WACOA.

Oral history conducted by Gene Nora Jessen, [no date, VHS and Betacam tapes]

Stinson describes her move to Glendale, her childhood fascination with planes, and her encounters with Eddie Stinson and Amelia Earhart. Concerning her State College experiences, Stinson mentions that, when she defied professors' expectations and made good grades, they tried to discourage her by saying she would not find a job. Stinson remarks that she took her CAA job in Washington, D.C. in compliance with her parents' request that she remain near home. She had wanted to accept a position with a private airplane company in California. Stinson pursued private employment again after World War II but realized her federal position offered her more advantages. Stinson mentions her early dream of becoming a doctor and tells a humorous story about her photograph accompanying the obituary for Eddie Stinson's aviator sister. She then comments on her activities with SWE and the Soroptimists, expresses satisfaction with the increasing number of women engineers, addresses the influence of space travel on aviation technology, and describes her work with airplane specifications and performance. Stinson later observes that her father disapproved of her flying planes and implies that he could not understand her failure to marry and raise a family. The mid- to latter part of the interview contains Stinson's discussion of women in engineering and aviation with Jessen's neighbor, another woman engineer and pilot. Stinson concludes the interview by discussing her love of travel and displaying her scrapbooks, pictures, certificates, and plaques.

Publicity 1937-1999 (MC 256 Series 04)
Size: 0.5 linear feet

This series contains public relations materials featuring Stinson and her accomplishments between 1937 and 1999. Items are grouped into two chronologically ordered subseries-Clippings/Articles and Photographs. The Clippings/Articles subseries includes photographs of and short statements and full-length articles about Stinson. These items appeared in popular, university, and agency magazines like Aviation Yearbook, NCSU Alumni Magazine, and FAA World . Stinson received publicity in agency and organization newsletters like the FAA's Intercom, and the Soroptimists' Capital Bulletin. Local and national newspapers like the Raleigh News and Observer and the Washington Post featured Stinson as well. The subseries also contains some FAA public relations and educational booklets in which Stinson is featured. Most clippings and articles focus on Stinson's status as a woman engineer and receipt of various awards and distinctions. In some cases, drafts and relevant personal letters and notes are are filed with published articles to provide context. The Photographs subseries contains some duplicates of pictures accompanying the aforementioned clippings and articles. Those photographs that are not duplicates appear to be posed shots and/or bear the imprints of newspaper names. Stinson is pictured in 1932 with Amelia Earhart, in 1987 with FAA Engineer Jane Knoche, and in various work and aviation-related settings.

1.0 archival boxes

Clippings and Articles
Box 3, Folder 1
Box 3, Folder 2
Box 3, Folder 3
Box 3, Folder 4
Box 3, Folder 5
1950 -1952
Box 3, Folder 6
1953 -1955
Box 3, Folder 7
Box 3, Folder 8
Box 3, Folder 9
Box 3, Folder 10
Box 3, Folder 11
Box 3, Folder 12
Box 3, Folder 13
Box 3, Folder 14
Box 3, Folder 15
Box 3, Folder 16
[no date]
Box 3, Folder 17
Box 3, Folder 18
Box 3, Folder 19
[no date, folder 1 of 7]
Box 3, Folder 20
[no date, folder 2 of 7]
Box 3, Folder 21
[no date, folder 3 of 7]
Box 3, Folder 22
[no date, folder 4 of 7]
Box 3, Folder 23
[no date, folder 5 of 7]
Box 3, Folder 24
[no date, folder 6 of 7]
Box 3, Folder 25
[no date, folder 7 of 7]
Box 3, Folder 26
Memorabilia 1940-1991 (MC 256 Series 05)
Size: 0.375 linear feet

This series includes a variety of memorabilia or ephemera dating from 1940 to 1991. Items are categorized into four chronologically ordered subseries--N. C. State Memorabilia, Stinson Memorabilia, Assorted Memorabilia, and Photographs. The N. C. State Memorabilia subseries contains artifacts such as bumper stickers and ribbon lapel pins, printed items such as programs from Stinson's graduation ceremony and class reunions, and certificates honoring Stinson's financial contributions to the university. The Stinson Memorabilia subseries includes printed items and artifacts such as programs from events honoring or featuring Stinson and a scrapbook commemorating Stinson's tenure as Soroptimist President. This subseries also includes Stinson's Civil Air Patrol card, an insurance company advertisement featuring a Stinson-related newspaper clipping, and a fictitious newspaper with a front-page headline concerning Stinson's CAA employment. Assorted Memorabilia includes clippings and programs containing no mention of Stinson. Some items feature Stinson's N. C. State classmate William Friday and fellow aviator and WACOA member Blanche Noyes. This subseries also includes an undated aviation sketchbook bearing Stinson's name. The Photographs subseries contains pictures featuring Stinson with members of the 1954 Women's Highway Safety Committee, guests at a 1961 Federal Woman's Award dinner, and members of the N. C. State class of 1941. Stinson is also pictured at an April 18, 1998 NCSU Lifetime Giving Societies gala with Judy Masnari and NCSU Engineering School Dean Nino Masnari. Moreover, she is pictured with two unidentified groups of people and at a President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped event with First Lady Pat Nixon.

0.75 archival boxes

N.C. State Memorabilia
Box 4, Folder 1
Box 4, Folder 2
Box 4, Folder 3
[folder 1 of 2] 1991
Box 4, Folder 4
[folder 2 of 2] 1991
Box 4, Folder 5
[no date, folder 1 of 5]
Box 4, Folder 6
[no date, folder 2 of 5]
Box 4, Folder 7
[no date, folder 3 of 5]
Box 4, Folder 8
[no date, folder 4 of 5]
Box 4, Folder 9
[no date, folder 5 of 5]
Box 4, Folder 10
Printed Materials
Box 4, Folder 11
Box 4, Folder 12
Box 4, Folder 13
Box 4, Folder 14
Box 4, Folder 15
[no date]
Box 4, Folder 16
Stinson Memorabilia
Box 4, Folder 17
Box 4, Folder 18
[no date]
Box 4, Folder 19
Stinson Memorabilia
Box 4, Folder 20
[no date]
Box 4, Folder 21
Box 4, Folder 22
[folder 1 of 2] 1961
Box 4, Folder 23
[folder 2 of 2] 1961
Box 4, Folder 24
Box 4, Folder 25
Box 4, Folder 26
[no date, folder 1 of 3]
Box 4, Folder 27
[no date, folder 2 of 3]
Box 4, Folder 28
[no date, folder 3 of 3]
Box 4, Folder 29

Access to the collection

This collection is open for research; access requires at least 48 hours advance notice.

For more information contact us via mail, phone, or our web form.

Mailing address:
Special Collections Research Center
Box 7111
Raleigh, NC, 27695-7111

Phone: (919) 515-2273

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Katharine Stinson Papers, MC 00256, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC

Use of these materials

North Carolina State University does not own copyright to this collection. Individuals obtaining materials from the NCSU Libraries' Special Collections Research Center are responsible for using the works in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials.