30 Women You Should Know

Over the next 30 days, The Birmingham Buff will feature 30 remarkable women who have made their mark on Birmingham’s history.

A Woman You Should Know #3

Have you ever visited Birmingham’s Southern Museum of Flight? You can thank Mary Alice Beatty for that opportunity. Along with her husband, Donald Beatty, Mary Alice felt strongly that a museum celebrating our city’s aviation history should be established. In 1966, the couple used their own memorabilia to set up a few displays. (Samford University donated space for the exhibit.) The museum moved into their current location in 1978.

Mary Alice shared with her husband a love affair of flying. But had Donald been a more passive man, their story may not have ever existed. As the story goes, the two met at a party at Tutwiler Hotel. Later Donald found out she had traveled to Maryland and had become engaged.  He flew his plane until he found her train. After landing in a field, he boarded the train and located Mary Alice. “Take off that ring,” said Donald. “You’re mine, and don’t you ever forget it.”  They were married in 1925 and would eventually have three children.


Mary Alice Beatty with daughter Mary Alice

Donald taught Mary Alice how to fly, and in 1931, they embarked on an expedition to discover new routes in South America, an endeavor funded by J.P. Morgan. It has been reported they were the first couple to fly over the Andes.

Mary Alice and Donald eventually moved back to the city, settling in Mountain Brook.  Mary Alice wrote an autobiography, “To Love the Sky,” in 1986. She died in 1995.

The Southern Museum of Flight offers a the Mary Alice Beatty Scholarship to a woman 19 to 30 who is pursuing an aviation career.