Mary Ann Lippitt

Born in Pride’s Crossing, MA, Mary Ann Lippitt (1918-2006) was a descendant of an old and influential Rhode Island family that was very active in Rhode Island business and politics. She was a cousin of the late Senator John Chafee and current Governor Lincoln Chafee.

As a teenager she enrolled in the first Gray Ladies training class and the first nurses aide class for the RI Red Cross.  She took special training at Ft. Devens during World War II for work with psychiatric patients. In 1944 she learned to fly during a visit to Virginia. Mary Ann was soon a skilled aviatrix, and she worked as a flying instructor in Virginia and served in the US air postal service before returning to Rhode Island. She was one of about a dozen women pilots in the state.

In 1946 she formed Lippitt Aviation at Hillsgrove (now T. F. Greene Airport), making her one of the first women
business owners in Rhode Island. A Providence Journal article from 1946 on Miss Lippitt’s new business
reported that “her personality must have been designed to win the friendship and confidence of people who
want to fly.” In those early postwar years, a woman flight instructor was an anomaly, but teaching people how to fly was her greatest enthusiasm, and she accumulated thousands of hours in the air before selling the business
in 1972.

During the 26 years she owned the company, she also operated a charter flight service with a fleet of up to four planes. She also competed at least once in the famous “Powder Puff Derby”, the transcontinental flying races for women pilots. After selling her company, Miss Lippitt devoted herself to charitable and civic causes, including serving as Chairman of the Board of the RI Red Cross, President of the Boards of Bannister House and the Women’s Center, and Board Member of the Providence Public Library, Gordon School, John Hope Settlement House, the Animal Rescue League, Preserve Rhode Island and Community Prep. Brown University recognized her services to the community by awarding her the President’s Medal in 2004.

Miss Lippitt made significant donations to many local charities including the Providence Public Library, which has
named the exhibition hall at the Central Branch in her honor; Brown University where she funded professorships in the Medical School; and Butler Hospital.

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