© 2020 by Roots & Wings Research, LLC

  • Kristin Wenger

Georgianna's Story Soars

Updated: Apr 22, 2018


Who is this confident and bold young woman pictured with her airplane in 1946?


My cousin, Amanda Hornberger, who, along with her older sister Laura, co-owns MaeJean Vintage, contacted me yesterday afternoon with an interesting request. They recently acquired the jewelry pictured below which had been owned by a 95-year-old woman named Georgianna Sees Herdman who recently passed away. The staff at Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania where Georgianna had been living provided them with information that she had been a pilot. Could I find out any more about this woman, who apparently died with no remaining family?

My first search revealed that no obituary had appeared for Georgianna.[1] I was saddened by the thought of an elderly woman dying with no family to carry on her memories. I was also intrigued, especially because Amanda’s query came on International Women’s Day. A 95-year-old former female pilot? Surely, she had a story worth telling. I am honored to share what I have learned about the life of this amazing woman.


Georgianna Sees was born on 16 September 1922 to George and Gertrude Sees.[2] Growing up near Philadelphia as an only child, Georgianna developed an early interest in dance and acrobatics. She won trophies for her tumbling abilities and was a professional dancer in her youth.[3]

Georgianna, age 5, was already an acrobat in the 4 July 1928 Philadelphia Inquirer article.


Georgianna married Anthony T. Santora of Newark, New Jersey in May 1941 when she was still eighteen years old.[4] This romance did not last long, as the young couple’s divorce was finalized by 1943.[5] Georgianna reverted to her maiden name, Sees, and became a fiercely independent young woman. She pursued a career as a female pilot, a most unusual accomplishment in the 1940s.


As the news clipping above reveals, Georgianna began flight lessons when she was just twenty years old, and by the time she turned twenty-three, she had become a commercial pilot with a flight instructor rating.[6] She even served as a flight instructor for veterans of World War II who learned to fly post-war under the GI Bill.[7] Can you imagine this gutsy young woman in her twenties teaching former soldiers how to fly? Throughout the mid-1940s, Georgianna made aviation headlines.[8]




Georgianna was an active member and treasurer of the Ninety-Nines, the International Organization of Women Pilots.[9]



This is the type of plane that Georgie flew.[10]


Amelia Earhart was the first president of the Ninety-Nines.[11] For more information about this fascinating group of pioneering women, visit their website or check out this brief video. Jewelry lovers will want to pause at 1:28 in the video to catch a glimpse of Amelia Earhart’s lucky bracelet that she did not wear on her final flight.


Georgianna found lasting love with Thomas Herndon Herdman, who served in the Civil Air Patrol with her following his service as an army pilot in World War II.[12] Tom worked as a meter reader for the Philadelphia Electric Company, where Georgie’s father also worked as an electrician.[13]


Tom’s high school year book photo[14]


Georgianna married Tom on 16 August 1948 and the Ninety-Nines reported on their wedding, honeymoon, and even gave them a silver ash tray as gift.[15]




Tom and Georgianna later moved to Spring, Harris County, Texas, where they resided when Tom died in 2004.[16] Georgianna lived her final years at Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, where she recently passed away on 5 February 2018 at the age of 95.[17] Her final resting place is in the Avon Section of Arlington Cemetery, Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, where her parents and grandparents are also buried.[18]


I am so thankful that MaeJean Vintage asked me to uncover the story of Georgianna’s life. Take another look at the photo of her jewelry.



Did you notice the cuff links with the initials TH on the top left? Now we have a picture of the handsome young husband and World War II veteran who wore them. Georgie’s pilot ring is also part of the collection. Knowing the story of the brave young woman who dared to become a pilot in the 1940s will surely inspire the next woman to own this ring. I hope that the future owners of these special pieces of jewelry can honor the memory of woman whose life is worth remembering: Georgianna Sees Herdman.


If you enjoyed reading about Georgianna's life, sign up for my blog to receive more stories like this or check out my website to see how I could help you preserve the stories of someone you love.


Sources:

[1] Search for Georgianna Herdman obituary, LancasterOnline (http://lancasteronline.com/obituaries/deaths/article_ddf2999c-7afc-5fce-a926-4d5d316c50f5.html : accessed 8 March 2018).


[2] For birthdate, see “Georgianna S. (Sees) Herdman,” Miller Finkenbinder Funeral Home & Crematory (http://www.millerfuneralhome.com/notices/Georgianna-Herdman : accessed 8 March 2018). For parents, see 1930 U.S. census, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Collingdale Township, ED 23-47, sheet 7-B, dwelling 155, family 159, George Sees household; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 March 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 2059.


[3] “Boys and Girls,” Pike County Dispatch (Milford, Pennsylvania), 11 April 1935, p. 1, col. 5; digital image, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com : accessed 8 March 2018). Also, Jessie Jones Eckhart, “Eastern Penn Chapter: 99er of the Month,” Ninety-Nines Newsletter (Washington, D.C.), 15 June 1949, p. 4, col. 1; digital image, The Ninety-Nines (https://www.ninety-nines.org/pdf/newsmagazine/194906.pdf : accessed 8 March 2018).


[4] “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriages Indexes, 1885-1951,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 8 March 2018), entry for Anthony Santora to Georgianna Sees; path > 1939-1942 > S > image 130 of 414; citing Clerk of the Orphan’s Court, City Hall, Philadelphia.


[5] “Florida Divorce Index, 1927-2001,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 March 2018), entry for Anthony T. Santora and Georgianna S. Santora; path > 1943 > S; citing Florida Department of Health, divorce certificate no. 12916, Jacksonville, Florida.


[6] Jessie Jones Eckhart, “Eastern Penn Chapter: 99er of the Month,” Ninety-Nines Newsletter (Washington, D.C.), 15 June 1949, p. 4, col. 1; digital image, The Ninety-Nines (https://www.ninety-nines.org/pdf/newsmagazine/194906.pdf : accessed 8 March 2018).


[7] “75 Veterans Learn to Fly Under GI Bill Program,” The Mercury (Pottstown, Pennsylvania), 9 July 1946, page 1, cols. 5-6; digital image, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com : accessed 8 March 2018).


[8] “Postwar Air Age is With Us,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 26 October 1946, page 36; digital image, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com : accessed 8 March 2018). Also, “Learning the Fine Points of Model Aviation,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 27 May 1947, page 3; digital image, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com : accessed 8 March 2018). Also, “Flying Enthusiasts at Air Show,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 23 June 1947, page 3; digital image, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com : accessed 8 March 2018).


[9] “1947-48 Section and Chapter Officers,” Ninety-Nines Newsletter (Washington, D.C.), 15 November 1947, p. 3; digital image, The Ninety-Nines (https://www.ninety-nines.org/pdf/newsmagazine/194711.pdf : accessed 8 March 2018). Also, Helen E. Jones, “Eastern Penn Chapter,” Ninety-Nines Newsletter (Washington, D.C.), 15 August 1946, p. 3, col. 1; digital image, The Ninety-Nines (https://www.ninety-nines.org/pdf/newsmagazine/194608.pdf : accessed 8 March 2018).


[10] “History of the North American AT-6 Texan,” History of Flight (http://historyflight.com/nw/aircraft_at6texan.php : accessed 9 March 2018).)


[11] The Ninety-Nines (https://www.ninety-nines.org/ : accessed 8 March 2018).


[12] Jessie Jones Eckhart, “Eastern Penn Chapter: 99er of the Month,” Ninety-Nines Newsletter (Washington, D.C.), 15 June 1949, p. 4, col. 1; digital image, The Ninety-Nines (https://www.ninety-nines.org/pdf/newsmagazine/194906.pdf : accessed 8 March 2018). Also, “U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 March 2018), entry for Thomas Hendren Herdman; citing Records of the Selective Service System, 147, Box 1080, The National Archives, St. Louis, Missouri.


[13] Ibid. For Tom, see also, “U.S. City Directories 1822-1995,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 March 2018), entry for Thomas H. Herdman, p. 208; path > Pennsylvania > Norristown > 1947 > Norristown, Pennsylvania Directory, 1947 > image 107 of 367. For George Sees, see 1930 U.S. census, Delaware Co., PA pop. sched., Collingdale Twp., ED 23-47, sheet 7-B, dwell. 155, fam.159, George Sees.


[14] “U.S. School Yearbooks, 1900-1990,” database with images, (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 March 2018), entry for Thomas Herdman, Norristown Area High School, 1937; path > Pennsylvania > Norristown > Norristown Area High School > 1937 > image 32 of 124.


[15] Jessie Jones Eckhart, “Eastern Penn Chapter: 99er of the Month,” Ninety-Nines Newsletter (Washington, D.C.), 15 June 1949, p. 4, col. 1; digital image, The Ninety-Nines (https://www.ninety-nines.org/pdf/newsmagazine/194906.pdf : accessed 8 March 2018). For wedding date, see Jessie Jones Eckhart, “Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter,” Ninety-Nines Newsletter (Washington, D.C.), 15 September 1948, p. 3 col. 1; digital image, The Ninety-Nines (https://www.ninety-nines.org/pdf/newsmagazine/194809.pdf : accessed 8 March 2018). For wedding gift, see Jessie Jones Eckhart, “Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter,” Ninety-Nines Newsletter (Washington, D.C.), 15 October 1948, p. 3 col. 2; digital image, The Ninety-Nines (https://www.ninety-nines.org/pdf/newsmagazine/194810.pdf : accessed 8 March 2018).


[16] "United States Social Security Death Index," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 8 March 2018), Thomas H Herdman, 04 Jan 2004; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).


[17] “Georgianna S. (Sees) Herdman,” Miller Finkenbinder Funeral Home & Crematory (http://www.millerfuneralhome.com/notices/Georgianna-Herdman : accessed 8 March 2018).


[18] Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/138023208/george-w-sees: accessed 9 March 2018), memorial 138023208, George W. Sees (1895-1974), Arlington Cemetery, Drexel Hill, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.