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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

Artist and subject

Danelle Bergstrom (age 46 in 2003)

Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE (age 88 in 2003)

Subject professions

Business, trades and industry

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

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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
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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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency