Melissa Friedmann portrays World War II pilot Virginia Mae Hope in an upcoming program at the Preston library.  PHOTO COURTESY OF MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Melissa Friedmann portrays World War II pilot Virginia Mae Hope in an upcoming program at the Preston library. PHOTO COURTESY OF MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
On Friday, May 9, the Preston Public Library will welcome Melissa Friedmann portraying World War II pilot, Virginia Mae Hope.

As Hope, Friedmann will share her story with the library patrons and give them a unique view into the life of this extraordinary woman.

Born on Aug. 17, 1921, Hope grew up in Winnebago, Minn., during the Great Depression on the family farm.

When she was 20 years old, she enrolled into a civilian pilot training program sponsored by the government and received her piloting license. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Hope became an air traffic controller to fill in for the men traveling overseas to fight the Axis powers.

Two years later, she entered the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs), training for six months in Texas. The WASPs served to free military pilots for combat duty during the war. In November 1943, she became one of the 25,000 women serving during the war.

These women ferried supplies, medical patients and military personnel and towed aerial gunnery targets in the States.

Hope flew Weather Service personnel and planes on military missions. Even though she provided this crucial service during the war, it was not uncommon to be insulted and looked down upon because she was a woman flyer.

After being notified the WASPs were to be disbanded as the end of World War II drew near, Hope found a job "flying war weary planes to the scrap heap," according to the Minnesota Historical Society's biography of Hope.

Three years after Pearl Harbor, Hope died in a plane crash with 16 others while taking off on yet another flight.

Finally, years after she died, in 1977, Congress officially recognized WASPs as military pilots, giving them veteran status.

The presentation at the Preston library begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 9. Friedmann, presenting herself as Hope, will be leading a lively 45-minute discussion. She will be bringing props, artifacts and multimedia elements for added drama.

While speaking, Friedmann plans to engage the audience with stories of Hope's childhood during the Great Depression, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and its national impact, the changing roles of women during World War II and what life was like as a Women Airforce Service Pilot.