51 / Jean Batten

(1909–1982)

Probably the most famous New Zealander of the 1930s was Rotorua-born aviator Jean (born Jane) Batten. She was determined to fly from an early age, and undertook solo flights from England to Australia (1934) and Australia to England (1935), becoming the first woman to fly both ways. The following year she made the first direct solo flight from England to New Zealand, in 11 days 45 minutes – establishing further records in the process, and others on her return flight in 1937. International honours followed, and on account of her personal beauty and striking couture she became known as the ‘Garbo of the Skies’. She lived most of her life abroad as a recluse, dying in obscurity in Majorca, Spain, where, her outstanding aviation achievements unknown, she was buried in a paupers’ mass grave.


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