Wassell01 At a time when airplanes were daring and dangerous, a local woman was among the first females to fly. Ida Mae Hampton earned her private pilot’s license in 1928 at age 18 after only 9 ½ hours of training. She was the first female to fly solo from Bader Field in Atlantic City and the first South Jersey woman to earn her pilot’s license. She was also an early member of the Ninety-Nines, an organization of early female pilots founded by Amelia Earhart.

Hampton once flew with champion aviator John Hunter, and was invited to fly in the first transatlantic flight from New York City to Rome in 1932, a trip known as the “American Nurse”. She declined the invitation and, consequently, was spared the fate of the participants, who were lost at sea. During World War II, she flew as a Civil Air Patrol courier between Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

Ida Mae Hampton was born in 1910 in Hammonton, New Jersey. She attended schools in Northfield and Atlantic City, New Jersey, as well as Pennsylvania. She married William Wassell in 1933 and had two children. She died in 2009.
Ida Mae Wassell poses in one of the planes she flew from Bader Field in the early 1930s. From the collection of Bill Wassell. Used with permission. Learn more about early aviation history in Atlantic City and see additional pictures of Ida Mae Hampton.


Naedele, William. “Early aviatrix dodged a doomed flight in 1932.” Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Aviatrix hits ocean flights.” Atlantic City Press. 19 September 1932: 1.
“Local girl had invitation to join in flight to Rome.” Atlantic City Press. 18 September 1932: 1.
“Wassell, Ida Mae (Hampton)” [obituary]. Press of Atlantic City. 4 November 2009: C2.

Print Email