Gower, Pauline (1910–1947)

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Gower, Pauline (1910–1947)

British aviator who was a British Air Transport officer during World War II . Name variations: Pauline Fahie. Born Pauline Mary de Peauly Gower in 1910; died soon after childbirth on March 2, 1947; daughter of Sir Robert Vaughan Gower (a politician and member of Parliament); educated by Sacred Heart nuns at a school in Tunbridge Wells; married William Fahie, in the summer of 1945; children: twin boys, including Michael Fahie (b. 1947).

Pauline Gower was born in England in 1910, the daughter of Sir Robert Vaughan Gower, a distinguished member of Parliament for many years and co-owner of an air-taxi service. She attended a Roman Catholic school and, as a teenager, survived a life-threatening illness, an experience which deepened her faith.

Gower started flying at age 18. A licensed pilot before age 20, she wanted very much to fly to India, but her father would not allow it. However, when she turned 21, he presented her with a Spartan two-seater airplane with a Sirrus-3 engine. Shortly afterward, Gower, with another woman pilot, Dorothy Spicer , established a five-shilling air-taxi service. Gower's safety record was so impressive that she was appointed by Sir Kingsley Wood to serve on the committee investigating flying over populous areas. Meantime, she was actively campaigning for a women's air arm in the national defense, and even wrote a book, Women with Wings (1938), which helped prepare the way for women pilots in the ferry pilot service.

At the time England entered the war, Gower was serving as a district commissioner for the London area of the Civil Air Guard. In 1940, she was made commandant of the women's section of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), whose pilots performed many war air services, including flying fighter planes from the factory to frontline defense air stations and ferrying home damaged aircraft. They were dubbed the "ATA-girls," a name that did not sit well with Gower who referred to the 45 crack women pilots in the service not as girls but women. "Women in this service," she said, "are treated exactly like the men. That is one of the things for which I have fought." Gower was enormously proud of the women pilots in her charge. "Every day," she said, "they handle tens of thousands of pounds' worth of Lancasters, Hurricanes, Mosquitoes, Blenheims, Spitfires, and all the rest of our aircraft."

In May 1943, Gower was also appointed to the board of the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), the first time a woman was appointed to such a position in the United Kingdom and, possibly, the first time a woman served on the board of a state airline anywhere in the world. The assignment meant that in addition to her war job, she served as an advisor to the Air Ministry on the comfort and psychology of women air travelers. In the summer of 1945, Pauline Gower married Bill Fahie at Brompton Oratory. She died on March 2, 1947, at age 37, soon after giving birth to twin boys.


Block, Maxine, ed. Current Biography 1943. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1943.

suggested reading:

Fahie, Michael. A Harvest of Memories: The Life of Pauline Gower M.B.E., 1999.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts