I have a new hero to add to my list. She’s a pilot. She’s a Captain. She has worked her butt off to reach her goals. She has fought against the patriarchy and won. AND she has inspired women to fight against injustice.
Meet Captain Deborah Lawrie, AM. Real-life Captain Marvel (minus the sparkly fists).
Last week, I was invited to check out the latest addition to Madame Tussaud’s Sydney–Captain Marvel. It opens in Sydney in time for the Summer School Holidays, following on from a very popular display in London and New York. Captain Marvel joins Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Iron Man in the ever-growing Marvel section of Madame Tussaud’s Sydney.
I am already a huge fan of the movie Captain Marvel (see my review/commentary here), and I am a fan of the comics, especially the recent story written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Christopher Sebela, Dexter Soy, Emma Rios, and Felipe Andrade. I haven’t yet introduced our 6-year-old daughter to the movie but she is already a fan of the character and all she represents.
As part of the welcome celebrations, the team at Madame Tussaud’s Sydney shared the story of Australia’s very own Captain Marvel: Captain Deborah Lawrie. Now, Lawrie is not a fantastically powered super-hero but she has all of the amazing characteristics and tributes of Carol Danvers. More importantly, Lawrie is a hero in real life.
Who is Captain Deborah Lawrie?
Deborah Lawrie obtained her private pilot licence in 1971, aged 18. She soon obtained a commercial pilot licence two years later and became a general aviation flying instructor and charter pilot in 1976.
“I started learning to fly when I was 16, to prove to my father that I could do it. My plan was to give it up after my first solo flight (flight without the instructor) as I did not really like it. After my first solo flight, I was so excited about what I had achieved and I became hooked on flying. That was the day I knew I wanted to become a pilot.” – Interview with Capt Deborah Lawrie, 11 Dec 2019.
It was in 1976 that Lawrie considered changing careers from High School teacher (maths and science) to commercial pilot. For two years, Lawrie constantly applied to Ansett Airline as a pilot and constantly received rejections, despite seeing many males make it through the selection process.
Finally, in 1978 Lawrie was interviewed… and she was rejected again. But this time, she knew something was not right. Lawrie raised the issue with the new Victorian Equal Opportunity Board and stepped into a brave new world.
This probably wouldn’t have been a big deal, except for the head of the company, Reg Ansett, publicly expressing his strong personal view that women were not suited to be airline pilots.
Ansett Australia objected against female pilots because:
- Pilots needed strength (though there was no strength test for pilots at the time)
- Women’s menstrual cycles made them unsuitable
- Pregnancy and childbirth would disrupt a woman’s career
Even in the 1970s and 1980s, it isn’t a surprise that Lawrie won her case against Ansett Australia. What IS a surprise is how adamantly they fought against the decision. It was appealed to the High Court of Australia (the highest court in the Australian jurisdiction), and was paired with questionable conduct within the company itself to deter Lawrie from doing her job.
I told my daughter about Capt. Deborah Lawrie. She gasped and then squealed. Zaltu was so excited about a woman who showed her super strength when she ‘got back up again’. So, naturally, I wanted to learn more about our new hero:
EG Mum: Who was your most supportive friend/family and what did it feel like knowing they “had your back”?
Capt. Lawrie: I had lots of support from friends and family. My mother was always very protective of me and would challenge anyone who tried to bring me down or criticise me. My sister always went with me to the court hearings as my support and my fiancé at the time was also very supportive and he helped me to navigate all the legal stuff. It was great to know that they all ‘had my back’ as sometimes Ansett were very brutal and nasty with their attack on me.
EG Mum: What would you say to a 5-year-old or 10-year-old or even a 15-year-old you, about the life you have had so far?
Capt. Lawrie: I would say to any kids of any age that no matter what anyone says if you are passionate about something never let anyone tell you you cannot do it. Flying has been a huge part of my life and I have loved everything about it. It is still amazing and the best part of all is that I have been paid for many many years to do something that I love. The best feeling is to love the work you do.
EG Mum: After re-watching Captain Marvel, there are so many similarities between you and Carol Danvers!! What would be your message for ‘young Marvels’ growing up today?
Capt. Lawrie: For the young Marvels growing up today….don’t be afraid to dream big and always know that if you are passionate about something, there is someone out there who will want to help you along the way.
You can learn more about this brilliant pioneer for women’s’ rights here. You can also see the amazing wax model and interactive display at Madame Tussauds around the world. The Sydney exhibit opens Saturday, December 14, 2019. Captain Marvel can also be seen with Marvel Super-Hero exhibits at Madame Tussaud’s around the world; check your local venue for details.
After seeing Zaltu’s reaction to this story, I’m really looking forward to showing her the Captain Marvel exhibit at Madame Tussaud’s Sydney. We all know they are not as good as meeting the people in real life but it is important for kids to see these displays and know they (as kids) have the opportunity to do great things with their life too. Now that Zaltu knows of ‘another Captain Marvel’, she connects better with the moral of the story and remembers to ‘get back up’.
If she can see it, she can be it.
For a refresher on the awesomeness of Captain Marvel, her stand-alone movie is now available to watch on Disney+.
Evil Genius Mum received free entry to Madame Tussaud’s Sydney to view the new Captain Marvel display. No payment was received for this review and all opinions are those of Evil Genius Mum alone. Special thanks to Captain Deborah Lawrie for her time and answers.