JCU lecturer publishes book about legendary Australian aviator

Creative and academic writing students at James Cook University have the real deal: a published author, JCU Arts Lecturer Chrystopher Spicer.

Spicer’s book The Flying Adventures of Jessie Keith “Chubbie” Miller was compiled after years of research and based on Jessie Miller’s own words and writing, this is the first book to focus on the flying career of this pioneer aviatrix, whose important place in aviation history has up until now been largely forgotten. Jessie flew into airspace where no woman and very few men had ever flown before, and so she left behind an important legacy as an international pioneer of flight. As the first aviatrix from the Southern hemisphere to become famous in the Northern hemisphere, she was the first woman to truly unite the world of flight.

Sydney Dental School
JCU Arts Lecturer Chrys Spicer (Photo credit: JCU)
Australian pioneer aviatrix Jessie Keith “Chubbie” Miller made a significant contribution to international aviation history. The first woman to travel from England to Australia in the air, with her close friend Bill Lancaster in 1928, Jessie Miller was also the first woman to fly more than 8000 miles (much further that Amelia Earhart at the time), to cross the equator in the air, to cross the South China and Timor Seas in the air, and to traverse the Australian continent by air from north to south.

In terms of how this book came about, Chrystopher describes it:

Well, it started many years ago when I was in Ohio doing some research on the actor Clark Gable for one of my books. I was having dinner with friends and someone asked me if I’d ever heard the story of an Australian aviatrix who had landed in a field outside of a small town called Xenia during an air race in 1929. I had no idea any Australian woman was flying in the US that early, and so I began to investigate the life of Jessie Keith “Chubbie” Miller, friend of Amelia Earhart, founding member of the Ninety Nines—the very first (and still existing) organisation for women pilots, and the first woman to travel from England to Australia in the air. In short, she was the first woman from the Southern hemisphere to break records and compete in air races in the Northern hemisphere.

I wrote about her in my earlier book, Great Australian World Firsts, but due to lack of interest from Australia publishers I’d given up on publishing an entire book about Jessie until I was asked by director Andrew Lancaster to become involved in the making of the film The Lost Aviator in 2014, about the mysterious disappearance of Jessie Miller’s friend Bill Lancaster. As a result of that work, I was able to take the project to an American publisher and now I’ve finally had the chance to give this remarkable woman her own voice in this new book, The Flying Adventures of Jessie Keith “Chubbie” Miller.

James Cook University lecturer Chrystopher J. Spicer has written extensively about Australian and American film and cultural history in such acclaimed books as Clark Gable: Biography (McFarland, 2002), and Great Australian World Firsts (Allen & Unwin, 2012). In 2015, he contributed to Andrew Lancaster’s film about Bill Lancaster and Jessie Miller, The Lost Aviator.

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