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Olive Ann Beech Took Her Aviation Company to Great Heights

Olive Ann Beech (SDASM Archives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Olive Ann Beech (1903-1993), highlighted in the Mental Floss article “8 Daring Female Entrepreneurs from History” demonstrated her interest in financial matters from an early age. This woman entrepreneur had her own back account by the time she was 7 years old. At the age of 11, she was managing her family’s finances too. All this was before she enrolled in college to study bookkeeping and stenography. She worked as a bookkeeper for Travel Air Manufacturing, an aviation company after college.

Beech helped the company grow; she not only handled the company’s finances; she also oversaw its records and communication. She was promoted to office manager and later became personal secretary to company co-founder Walter Beech. The two married in 1930 and together founded Beech Aircraft Company.  As a trailblazing woman herself, Beech recognized the need for women to be seen out in front. According to NationalAviation.org:

“She convinced her husband Walter that winning a 1936 Bendix coast-to-coast speed dash would be even more impressive if the aircraft, a Staggerwing C17R, had a woman as its pilot. Louise Thaden and Blanche Noyes flashed across the Los Angeles finish line to win the Bendix trophy in a record 14 hours and 44 minutes after departing from New York.”

Olive Ann became the company president when Walter died in 1950. She was the first woman to lead an aircraft company of that size. She was able to help the company transition from manufacturing aircraft to working with NASA. She was also able help her organization triple its sales. When her company merged with Raytheon, Beech remained chair of Beech Aircraft and was also elected to Raytheon’s board of directors. So, while you may have heard of Raytheon, you may not have known how Olive Ann Beech’s efforts to build and sustain her company eventually added to Raytheon’s continued success.