Skip to main content

The National Portrait Gallery is temporarily closed to the public until further notice.

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Nancy Bird Walton - Pioneer

2003
Danelle Bergstrom

oil on canvas (support: 152.0 cm x 91.0 cm)

Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE (1915-2009) is one of Australia's pioneering pilots. Bird worked in her father's country store to save up for helmet, goggles and leathers. She began lessons with Charles Kingsford Smith in 1933, obtained her pilot's licence in 1935 and promptly organised the first Ladies' Flying Tour of Australia. The following year she won the Ladies' Trophy in the Brisbane to Adelaide Centenary Air Race. Appointed to the Far West Children's Health Scheme, she became the first Australian woman to work commercially in aviation and the first female pilot in the Commonwealth to carry passengers as she flew the Aerial Ambulance and Baby Clinic Service in northwest NSW. After a spell with the Charter Air Service in Cunnamulla she became a commandant in the Women's Air Training Corps. In 1950 she founded the Australian Women Pilot's Association. Eight years later she became the first woman from outside the US to enter the All Women's Transcontinental Air Race (the 'Powder Puff Derby') and took fifth place in a field of 61. Her books include Born to Fly (1960) and My God it's a Woman (1990). Named a Living National Treasure, Nancy Bird Walton is patron and life member of many aeronautical associations and a much-loved public speaker

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2004
© Danelle Bergstrom

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Danelle Bergstrom (age 46 in 2003)

Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE (age 88 in 2003)

Subject professions

Health and medicine

Military

Supported by

Basil P. Bressler (48 portraits supported)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Nancy Bird Walton, c. 1938
Nancy Bird Walton, c. 1938
Nancy Bird Walton, c. 1938
Nancy Bird Walton, c. 1938

The aviatrix

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2009

Joanna Gilmour explores the extraordinary life of Australian female aviator Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency