Monday, November 6, 2023

The Flying Nun


Good morning!  Today I'm writing about "the flying nun"--no, not this one:

The original flying nun was Sister Mary Aquinas was born Mary Kinskey in 1894 and she was not only a nun in the Third Order of St. Francis but also an aviation/aerodynamics expert.

Well educated, she had a Master's degree in physics from Notre Dame.  Her interest in aviation she attributed to her students' interest in airplanes.  During World War II, she taught military personnel about aviation and aerodynamics; she also taught members of the military at Catholic University.  


Dubbed "the flying nun", she also had an aviation license and referred to herself as "a natural bird."

Her efforts were honored by the United States Air Force who gave her a special citation in 1957.  When a member of the Air Force asked if there was anything the military could do for her--she answered she would like to learn more about jets.  The Air Force sent her to McGuire Air Force base for training!

In honor of Sister Mary Aquinas, I thought I would feature some airplane patterns today.  Sister Mary passed in 1985 at age 91.

First off is a piece you won't see anywhere else.  I know this was an original design made by CMG in 1930. 

She was 73 years old and therefore born in 1857.  What CMG must have seen in her life!  It was no wonder that she included the airplane on her coverlet!  The airplanes are flanked by scherenschnitte types of designs popular with the Pennsylvania Dutch:

It's a truly unique piece and it really startled me when I found it at a local flea market mall.

Here are two patterns that were offered by Aunt Martha in 1933.  The marketing suggested these be made for a boy.  Wonder what Sister Mary would think of that?

Some of the airplane quilts were used as signature quilts--and not just for military personnel.  In 1929, Mrs. Maggie Berry was the recipient of an airplane quilt.  Members of her club embroidered their names on the wings of the planes.  Included with the quilt was this poem:

"We send to you by airplane, our names in cream and blue
We think of you, though you are gone, 
It's one who sure was true
The things you knew were right and fair, 
and if we never meet again, in this our earthly life, 
we hope and pray we meet you where, 
There is no sin or strife."

Aeroplane, Nancy Page pattern also 1933:

During World War 2, many airplane quilts were made to raise funds.

Kansas City Star pattern, 1940

I hope you have a high flying day!


  1. What a fun theme for your post today! And I'm reading The Women With Silver Wings for a book club meeting next week. It's about the women pilots of World War II.

  2. Sister Mary was incredible, and how sad that when you Google The Flying Nun, that silly Sally Fields comedy is all you can find. You have to type in "the real flying nun" to get results for her. I love the airplane quilts and their history!