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Ruth Mary Petry Collection

Identifier: WV 0319

Scope and Contents

The Ruth Mary Petry Papers contain information about Petry's experience as a member of the WASP during World War II and her postwar involvement in the Order of Fifinella, the official WASP organization. The collection spans from 1940 to 1991, and most of the materials are from 1944 and focus specifically on World War Two WASP activities. Document formats in this collection include: personal letters from 1943 to 1949, certificates and official papers from 1940 to 1945, newsletters, newspapers from the 1940's, photographs, WASP rosters, manuals, a copy of a transcript of a 1989 oral history interview conducted by Texas Woman's University, and artifacts.

Petry's letters discuss the daily duties and life of a WASP. Frequently she describes, in detail, training exercises, weather, planes, ferrying orders and cross country flights, life in the bunk, uniforms, flight classes, and cockpit procedures. Petry also discusses the deactivation of the WASP, which took place on 20 December 1944 in her personal correspondence with both family and fellow WASP. In a letter received by Petry from a fellow WASP stationed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota the dynamic between WASP and the service men who were stationed on base is described.

Petry remained active in WASP affairs postwar by joining the Order of Fifinella; the other half of the collection focuses on the corporation of the WASP/Order of Fifinella organization, the history of the Order of Fifinella, the campaign for gaining veteran status, and reunion information and WASP updates.


  • 1940-1991 and undated


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information. Please see our Sensitive Materials Statement.

Biographical Note

Ruth Mary Petry was born 20 June 1916 and resided in Ithaca, New York. Petry attended Cornell University from 1933 to 1935. Later, she transferred to Radcliffe University where she graduated in 1938 with a degree in geology. Petry obtained her full pilots license in 1940 and her commercial license in 1945. In the early 1940's Petry was employed by Pan Am teaching instrumental flying.

In 1943, Petry joined the Women Airforce Sservice Pilots and was a graduating member of class 44-W-2. During her time in service, Petry was a ferrying pilot; she was also an early test pilot for the B-24, B-17, P-47, and P-39 planes. She attended training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, and was stationed at Courtland Air Base in Alabama. Petry was discharged from the WASP on 20 December 1944 when the program was disbanded.

Upon her discharge Petry was employed as an aerial photographer pilot with Air Views Inc. She also worked with Crash Injury Research at Cornell Medical College for the Department of the Navy. She was an analyst for John Hopkins from 1952 to 1954, and did military research for Cape Institute of Technology. In 1957 Petry relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, where she worked for Safety Engineering and Research: Flight Safety Foundation.

Petry was a founding member of the 99's, an international organization of women pilots. She was also very active in the Order of Fifinella, the official WASP organization. Petry served as leader of the Arizona chapter during the campaign for veteran status and other WASP corporate affairs. In addition to piloting, Ruth Petry was also involved in soaring; in 1950 she won the Dallas, Texas American Women's Soaring Championship and was also a member of Arizona Soaring.

Ruth Petry passed away on 17 September 2004.


4.80 Linear Feet (Approximately 300 items (2 manuscript boxes, 1 artifact box, 1 oversized artifact box))

Language of Materials



Ruth Mary Petry (1916-2004) of Ithaca, New York, served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) from 1943 to 1944. Petry was stationed at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas and at Courtland Air Base, Alabama, during her time in the service.

Collection contains information about Petry's experiences as a WASP during World War Two and as a member of the Order of Fifinella. The collection spans from 1940 to 1991. Material formats include: correspondence from 1943 to 1949 and 1961 to 1991, manuals, certificates and official papers from 1940 to 1945, militarization and deactivation letters from 1944, uniforms and handbooks from the 1940's, stationary, newsletters, newspapers, WASP rosters, photographs from the 1930's to the 1960's, a copy of a transcript of a 1989 oral history interview conducted by Texas Woman's University, and artifacts.

Arrangement Note

Collection is organized into the following series: Correspondence, WASP Materials, Photographs, and Artifacts.

Method of Acquisition

Purchased in 2005.

Offensive Language Statement

The UNC Greensboro University Libraries collects, preserves, and makes accessible unique and historical materials for learning and research. The nature of historical materials is such that some material may represent positions, norms, and values that are offensive and objectionable. These materials represent the opinions and actions of their creators. By providing access to these records in our reading room and through our digital collections, we recognize that archives and rare books can play a vital role in holding those creators accountable and in helping us learn from the past.

Our finding aids and other collection descriptions may occasionally re-use language provided by creators or former holders of the materials, but we strive to place outdated or offensive terminology in context. That said, we recognize that we may not always make the right decision and welcome feedback from all sources so we can learn and adjust our practices. Please contact us at if you encounter problematic language in our finding aids or other collection description. We will review the language and, as appropriate, update it in a way that balances preservation of the original context with our ongoing commitment to describing materials with respectful and inclusive language.

Processing Information

Processed by Natalie Edwards, March 2007.

Ruth Mary Petry Collection
Natalie Edwards
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Repository

P.O. Box 26170
320 College Ave.
Greensboro NC 27402-6170 US