On This Day
1217 – The Charter of the Forest is sealed at St Paul’s Cathedral, London by King Henry III, acting under the regency of William Marshall, 1st Earl of Pembroke which re-establishes for free men rights of access to the royal forest that had been eroded by William the Conqueror and his heirs.
The Charter of the Forest of 1217 (Latin: Carta Foresta) is a charter that re-established for free men rights of access to the royal forest that had been eroded by William the Conqueror and his heirs. Many of its provisions were in force for centuries afterwards. It was originally sealed in England by the young King Henry III, acting under the regency of William Marshall, 1st Earl of Pembroke. It was in many ways a companion document to the Magna Carta, and redressed some applications of the Anglo-Norman Forest Law that had been extended and abused by William Rufus.
‘Forest' to the Normans meant an enclosed area where the monarch (or sometimes another aristocrat) had exclusive rights to animals of the chase and the greenery (“vert”) on which they fed. It did not consist only of trees, but included large areas of heathland, grassland and wetlands, productive of food, grazing and other resources. Lands became more and more restricted as King Richard and King John designated greater and greater areas as royal forest. At its widest extent, royal forest covered about one-third of the land of southern England. Thus it became an increasing hardship on the common people to try to farm, forage, and otherwise use the land they lived on.
The Charter of the Forest was first issued on 6 November 1217 at St Paul’s Cathedral, London as a complementary charter to the Magna Carta from which it had evolved. It was reissued in 1225 with a number of minor changes to wording, and then was joined with Magna Carta in the Confirmation of Charters in 1297.
At a time when royal forests were the most important potential source of fuel for cooking, heating and industries such as charcoal burning, and of such hotly defended rights as pannage (pasture for their pigs), estover (collecting firewood), agistment (grazing), or turbary (cutting of turf for fuel), this charter was almost unique in providing a degree of economic protection for free men who used the forest to forage for food and to graze their animals. In contrast to Magna Carta, which dealt with the rights of barons, it restored to the common man some real rights, privileges and protections against the abuses of an encroaching aristocracy. For many years it was regarded as a development of great significance in England’s constitutional history, with the great seventeenth-century jurist Sir Edward Coke referring to it along with Magna Carta as the Charters of England’s Liberties, and Sir William Blackstone remarking in the eighteenth century that “There is no transaction in the antient part of our english history more interesting and important, than . . . the charters of liberties, emphatically stiled THE GREAT CHARTER and CHARTER OF THE FOREST . . . .”
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Born On This Day
1894 – Opal Kunz, American pilot and activist (d. 1967)
Opal Kunz (November 6, 1894 – May 15, 1967) was an early American aviator, the chief organizer of the Betsy Ross Air Corps, and a charter member of the Ninety-Nines organization of women pilots. In 1930, she became the first woman pilot to race with men in an open competition. She made many public appearances to urge more women to take up flying.
Opal Logan Giberson was born in 1894 or 1896 in Missouri to Edward F. Giberson and his wife. She graduated from Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
In 1923, she married mineralogist George Frederick Kunz (1856–1932). The marriage was annulled in 1929. The couple remained on good terms, with Kunz caring for George for the remainder of his life. On his death, he left her a substantial bequest.
Kunz earned her pilot’s license in 1929. A crash two weeks later in New Jersey drew extensive press coverage; she escaped uninjured. A second crash two years later left her with gasoline burns. 
She spent a great deal of time and money on her flying pursuits and always named her planes after Betsy Ross. On April 7, 1930, at the Philadelphia American Legion Benefit Air Meet, she became the first woman to race with men in open competition. She won the race.
Kunz gave frequent press interviews and radio addresses to urge more women to take up flying.
Powder Puff Derby
In 1929, Kunz participated in the first Women’s Air Derby, later dubbed the “Powder Puff Derby” by humorist Will Rogers. At the time, there were only 70 licensed female pilots in the entire United States, and only 40 qualified to take part in this contest. The transcontinental course began in Santa Monica, California, and ended in Cleveland, Ohio.
Race rules stipulated that the aircraft must have horsepower “appropriate for a woman.” Kunz was told her own 300-horsepower Beech Travel Air was too fast for a woman to handle and would not be allowed. Forced to borrow a less-powerful airplane in order to take part in the race, she finished eighth.
Death of Jack Donaldson
On September 7, 1930, Kunz loaned her plane to aviator John Donaldson at the American Legion Air Races meet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Donaldson suffered fatal injuries when the airplane fell from a height of 1,800 feet straight down into the municipal airfield.
Betsy Ross Air Corps
Kunz was an organizer of the Betsy Ross Air Corps, a paramilitary service formed to support to support the Army Air Corps (the precursor to the U.S. Air Force) in national defense and to serve as humanitarian “air minutemen” in times of emergency. It also had the goal of offering flight instruction to women in order to build a reserve group of women aviators. Kunz grew the corps to about 100 members, partially funding it herself. She served as the corps’ first commander, and her husband designed its insignia. The short-lived corps (1931–1933) was never formally recognized by the U.S. military.
World War II
As World War II approached, Kunz began teaching aviation students at Arkansas State College. In 1942, she moved to Rhode Island, and at the start of World War II became an instructor at the Rhode Island state airport for Navy cadets and for the government-sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program. She taught several hundred young men how to fly for the war effort.
After the war, she became an inspector for the Aerojet Corporation in California.
In 1961, following after the historic space flight of the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, she wrote to President John F. Kennedy to volunteer her services as an American astronaut. In honor of her extensive aviation experience, the president wrote her a courteous reply.
Kunz died at home in Auburn, California in 1967.
The Betsy Ross Air Corps (1931–1933) was a pre–World War II organization of female pilots formed to support the Army Air Corps and to be of service in times of emergency. Founded during the Great Depression by aviator Opal Kunz and named after Revolutionary War hero Betsy Ross, the short-lived corps was never formally recognized by the U.S. military.
The founder of the Betsy Ross Air Corps, aviator Opal Kunz, had been disappointed that an earlier organization of women aviators, the Ninety-Nines, had not answered her goal of creating a women’s national defense corps. So in 1931, Kunz formed the Betsy Ross Air Corps as a paramilitary service to support the Army Air Corps (the precursor to the U.S. Air Force) in national defense and to serve as humanitarian “air minutemen” in times of emergency. It also had the goal of offering flight instruction to women in order to build a reserve group of women aviators.
Apart from Kunz, aviators present at the first meeting of the corps (either in person or by proxy) included: Pancho Barnes, Marjorie Stinson, Mary Goodrich Jenson, Ruth Elder, LaBelle Sweeley, Ruth Bridwell McConnell, Eleanor McRae, Jean LaRene, Jane Dodge, Manila Davis, Margery Doig, Gladys O’Donnell, May Haizlip, and E. Ruth Webb.” Later members included Hattie Meyers Junkin, Aline Miller, and Martha Morehouse.
Kunz served as the corps’ first commander, and her husband designed its insignia. The corps had its own uniforms, and an anthem was commissioned for the corps. The corps has occasionally been referred to by the nickname “The Lady Bugs”.
Kunz grew the corps to about 100 members and kept it going for several years, partially funding it herself. Among its other activities, the corps took part in air shows to raise money for charities.
In a letter that Kunz later wrote to President John F. Kennedy, she said that she had intended to form a “Women’s Reserve Corp” [sic]. As it turned out, it was flier Pancho Barnes who afterwards formed the Women’s Air Reserve as an unofficial branch of the U.S. Air Force.
eWillys: Kentucky’s Frontier Nursing Service & Jeeps
In 1952, Mary authored a story about the FNS titled Wide Neighborhoods: A Story of the Frontier Nursing Service. It’s possible the book might yield more specific information about the introduction of jeeps into the FNS. IN the meantime, the University of Kentucky appeared to have more digital images of the FNS and jeeps, but unfortunately I couldn’t get the links to open.
The school founded by the FNS continues today as Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing.
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