3 Käthe Paulus – acrobat of the air in the service of the armament industries

The female aeronaut and full-time acrobat of the air Käthe Paulus is aid to be the inventor of the folded parachute. When she came in contact with motorized flight she already had been in aviation for 20 years. Paulus earned her money as an acrobat of the air. She jumped in an adventurous costume out of a hot-air balloon and landed with a parachute – so she was rather an entertainer and not an aviator. Nevertheless she became a trainee pilot in Berlin-Johannisthal in 1910. After the deadly crash of her instructor she abstained from motorized flight and concentrated on the development of her parachute-package -designed to be carried on the body of the pilot. The Prussian Army didn’t show any interest in this concept before 1916. Until then it was the common practice that pilots shoot themselves with a revolver they carried for that purpose or that they leaped to their death. According to the motto: parachutes are for cowards, the infantryman on the ground won’t get a second chance either. However the Prussian War Department had to realize that the training of the pilots was too costly and time-consuming to sacrifice these men carelessly and that the experienced man were needed to face the allied supremacy. The armament industries became the new challenge for Käthe Paulus, until the end of the War she produced around 7000 parachutes and received the Service Cross for her contribution to the War. Only very few attended her funeral service, but among them were renown female pilots such as Elly Beinhorn and Hann Reitsch, who appreciated her pioneering achievements for females in aviation.

Schmitt,G; Schwips, W. :  Pioniere der frühen Luftfahrt.   Blindlach 1995.
Probst, Ernst:  Königinnen der Lüfte . Biographien berühmter Fliegerinnen, Mainz 2002

Online resources:

How did the industrialized War change the position of women in society? Discuss the problems that derive from millions of women replaced by returning man after the war.
Compiled by Christian Taube.

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