The story goes that Will Rogers coined the phrase "Powder Puff Derby" after viewing the 19 women pilots at Clover Field take a quick look in their compact mirrors and powder their noses before take off on August 18, 1929. The race was set for a journey over several days from Santa Monica to Cleveland. At 2pm, a shot was fired, a flag dropped and the aircraft shot out of Clover Field on a short trek to San Bernardino. Notable pilots included Pancho Barnes, Amelia Earhart, Mary Haizlip, and Bobby Trout. Louise Thadden was first over the finish line, landing in Cleveland nine days after the start of the race in her blue and gold Travel Air.
Read more about the first female air race in the United States in The Powder Puff Derby of 1929: The True Story of the First Women's Cross-Country Air Race by Gene Nora Jessen, available at the Santa Monica Public Library. Digitized photographs come from the Imagine Santa Monica collection.