Hacienda Del Sol

Student Spotlight: Shirley Slade

Learn a little about the life of 1938 Hacienda Del Sol student turned Air Force Pilot, Shirley Slade.

The 1938 Hacienda Del Sol Yearbook is filled with tiny glimpses into the lives of the students who attended school here. One of these students was Shirley Slade. 

Shirley Slade was born in 1921 to parents John Carroll Slade and Katharine Slade in Chicago Cook County, Illinois. In the 1930's, Shirley packed her bags and headed out west to attend Hacienda Del Sol, a prestigious ranch school for girls. 

Shirley Slade’s Hacienda Del Sol yearbook photo circa 1938

Although Shirley claimed she wanted to be a jockey and win the Kentucky Derby one day, she eventually went on to become a pilot in the United States Air Force during WWII. She was one of about 1,200 women selected to go through an intense months-long training course allowing her to become one of the first female pilots to ever enter the Air Force. Over 25,000 women applied for the program! This chosen group of women were referred to as WASPs: Woman AirForce Service Pilots.

Photo: public domain

On July 19, 1943, our very own Hacienda Del Sol alum graced the cover of LIFE Magazine at just 22 years old. Not only was it big news for Shirley to be featured on the cover as a WASP, it was big news for women to even be in the Air Force during this time. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Air Force was in need of more pilots and male pilots were in short supply.

“This is not a time when women should be patient. We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability and every weapon possible. Women pilots, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used.”
-- Eleanor Roosevelt, September 1, 1942

Shirley in her WASP Uniform. Photo courtesy of Texas Woman’s University

Shirley Slade, pictured second from left, with other WASPs 

Shirley and the other WASPs flew the B-26 and B-29 airplanes. The WASP program lasted for two years and disbanded in 1944 as WWII began to die down. Records and documents about the WASPs were classified until the 1970’s when the Air Force announced they were now accepting female military pilots. The WASPs were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010 by President Obama. Although several WASPs were in attendance, Shirley Slade passed away ten years earlier in 2000. 

President Obama honors WASPs in 2010.

Shirley Slade went on to do exciting things after her years at Hacienda Del Sol. See the other students from the class of 1938 in the yearbook here. You can also learn more about the WASPs here.

Stop by Hacienda Del Sol and experience a living history for yourself. 

See you soon.