Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Rose Lok, Chinese-American Pilot

Rose Lok achieved nationwide fame as a Chinese-American aviation pioneer during the 1930s. Lok, who was born in China in 1912, immigrated to the United States with her family as a child. They settled in a home on Tyler Street in Boston.

By the time she was 20, Lok had developed a strong interest in learning how to fly a plane. “I always thought flying would be lots of sport, and once a friend took me up,” she explained in an Associated Press (AP) interview. “I was so delighted I decided to try lessons.” Lok added, “Now I like it better than anything else.”

Lok received her flying lessons at East Boston’s Jeffery Field (now Logan International Airport) from Lieutenant Francis P. Kendall of the 101st Massachusetts National Guard aviation squadron. “She learned quickly and thoroughly, and seemed to take naturally to the air,” Kendall said in the AP news story about her.

In receiving her pilot’s license in 1932, Lok joined a small but distinguished group of trailblazing Chinese-American women – including Leah Hing, Hazel Ying Lee, and Hilda Yen – who likewise achieved that type of certification during the decade. Lok was also the first female Chinese-American pilot to reside in New England and fly solo out of present-day Logan International Airport. In 1996, a tree was planted in her honor at the International Forest of Friendship in Atchison, Kansas; this memorial forest commemorates those who have made notable contributions to aviation. In addition, the site of Lok’s one-time home on Tyler Street is now a part of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail.

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