Sep. 16—When it comes to female aviators, Amelia Earhart is often in forefront of the public's mind. Far fewer are familiar with the name Hazel Jane Raines, but Pamela Bauer Mueller is looking to change that.
The Jekyll Island-based author first heard about Raines — a Waynesboro native — while out for walk with a friend.
"On our walk one day, I told her I was ready to write again and wanted to honor a Georgia woman. Several days later, she gave me a list of about 10 Georgia women who had inspired many over the past two centuries," Mueller said. "I researched them all, and Hazel Jane's story spoke directly to me. I think her courage, her love of breaking barriers and her determination first drew me to her."
One quick peek at Raines' biography makes it easy to see why. An American aviation pioneer, she was as one of the first women to fly a military aircraft during World War II. Raines flew over war-torn England (even crashing once) as part of the British Air Transport Auxiliary.
"So many of us are interested in World War II, yet know so little about the women's role in the air. Because female pilots could not fly in the U.S. during the war, Hazel Jane Raines and 25 other American female pilots were recruited as ferry pilots with England's Royal Air Force," Mueller said.
"To fly undetected by enemy radar, they used only a compass and intuition, made no radio contact and soared unarmed through the hostile skies patrolled by the German Air Force to deliver bombers and fighters."
After the war, Ranies taught instrument training in Brazil. When President Harry S. Truman authorized the integration of women into the military, she served with Women in the Air Force and was based in Texas, Alabama and in London. While in the United Kingdom, Raines, who was only 40 suffered a heart attack in 1956. Throughout her groundbreaking career, she'd logged 6,400 flying hours and flew 44 different kinds of aircraft. In 1989, she was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame and the Georgia Women of Achievement.
For Mueller, Raines' story was too good to pass up.
"I loved her barnstorming days and stunt flying. As I learned more about her life, I admired her patriotism, love of family and the huge legacy she left to women in aviation. She was a true pioneer, and knew how to prevail in the many difficult situations she encountered," she said.
Mueller got to work, setting Raines' life down in novel form. Luckily, she was a little familiar with the world of aviation as her husband, Michael, has his private pilot's license. That knowledge proved invaluable as she was writing what would become, "The Sky Is My Home: The Story of Hazel Jane Raines."
"He actually wrote the first half of Chapter 11, because he knows about routine plane inspections, take-offs and landings. I wrote the second half about the crash," she said.
The novel started to take shape during the early days of the COVID pandemic. In addition to visiting museums when she could, Mueller read all of the books and articles she could find about the female pilots of World War II. She also discovered a book written by Hazel Jane's older sister, Regina T. Hawkins, which proved invaluable in her writing process.
"It was based on a series of letters written by Hazel Jane to her friends and family, as well as letters she received, especially from her mother. These letter became the foundation for the book, 'Pioneer Lady of Flight: Hazel Jane Raines, A Biography in Letters.' When I contacted Regina's children to ask their permission to write a novel about Hazel Jane's life, they not only gave me the green light, but also sent me Hazel Jane's photo albums that she had assembled over her lifetime. So I have included her original photos in the book. I did travel to Macon and followed her childhood and home life, but I wasn't able to visit England and Brazil (where she also lived and worked) because of COVID travel restrictions," Mueller said.
As she has done so many times before, she pulled the novel together flawlessly and she cannot wait to officially share Raines' powerful story. While the book will be available worldwide in January 2023, Mueller is currently in pre-release mode. That means connecting with the community through appearances and book signings. The first will be her official launch, held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Goodyear Cottage on Jekyll Island.
"I will speak about the book at 2 p.m. After the launch, we have planned many additional signings during the fall," she said. "The copyright date is January 2023, which is when it will be available worldwide through my distribution company, as well as through Amazon.com and bookstores. But you go to pinatapub.com, click on 'events' and you will see my signing schedule."
Mueller is energized by her new story and is thrilled to share the story of this inspiring Georgian.
"And this was just the beginning of Hazel Jane's incredible adventures. Her life was shaped by bravery, intelligence and charm, as well as the political and social challenges of the day. The sky is never the limit for those who believe in themselves," Mueller said.