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Maud Bolin’s Multifaceted Life

Did you know one of the first female solo pilots in the Yakima Valley came from Toppenish…

And…she was the first female American Indian pilot in the state, and likely in the nation?

You may have heard of Maud Bolin as one of the early settlers of Toppenish, but her legacy in aviation may be one fact you don’t know as much about.

Maud Bolin led a multifaceted life that showcased independence, courage, and leadership. She was born in Toppenish in 1891 to Josephine and Nevada Lillie. Maud's diverse career began with rodeo performances, where she excelled as a cowgirl and rodeo performer, participating in events like the Pendleton Round-Up, Ellensburg Rodeo, and Toppenish Pow. Wow.

In 1927, Bolin ventured into aviation, learning to fly just nine years after Amelia Earhart. She made two parachute jumps as a prerequisite for her pilot's license, becoming one of Washington's earliest female aviators.

According to an article about Bolin by Lynn E. Bragg posted on WashingtonHistory.org, Bolin said her first solo flight attempt was one of her biggest thrills, describing how difficult it was for her as a beginner to hold the plane steady but finally learning to handle the control stick. The article went on to say that bringing the plane in for a good landing was her greatest challenge. But soon she mastered flying, participating in air shows and tours across the country. In 1928, she made her first cross-country flight. With another pilot, she flew across the state dropping campaign literature for Senator Clarence C. Dill.

Bolin was a charter member of the Yakima Lady Birds, a women's aviation club formed in 1928. In 1930, after receiving her solo pilot's license, Bolin traveled on the Pacific Northern Airway Tour, with over 40 planes touring 16 Northwest cities and towns. Bolin's plane was one of the few that completed the circuit, making all 16 scheduled stops. According to Bragg, Bolin proclaimed that participating had significantly increased her confidence in her solo flying skills.

While aviation is only one of Maud Bolin's diverse talents and contributions to her community, it illustrates the wild ambition that helped her to become a trailblazer for women during a time when societal expectations were different. She continued to inspire her community until her passing on February 17, 1966, leaving a legacy of independence and leadership.