A trailblazing World War II veteran, renowned for her feats as both a physicist and pilot, is set to be inducted into California’s Hall of Fame this month.
Asian American luminary: Margaret “Maggie” Gee, whose remarkable life saw her breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings, joins a distinguished roster of luminaries who have left an indelible mark on California.
On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled the names of seven distinguished individuals who will be inducted into the 16th Class of the California Hall of Fame. In addition to Gee, other celebrated figures include actor and screenwriter Carrie Fisher, singer Etta James, Olympic gold medalist and educator Archie Williams, L.A. Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, actor and public servant Shirley Temple Black and LGBTQ rights activist and pioneer Jose Julio Sarria.
Born to fly: Born as Gee Mei Gue on Aug. 5, 1923, in Berkeley, Gee was a passionate aviation enthusiast, captivated by trailblazers like Amelia Earhart. Her family’s Sunday trips to Oakland Airport further solidified her aspirations.
Path to greatness: When the U.S. joined World War II in 1941, Gee’s academic pursuits were momentarily sidelined. She contributed to the war effort by working in naval ship production at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. She then used her earnings to finance her dream of becoming a pilot.
Gee earned her pilot’s license within six months after moving to Minden, Nevada, to learn how to fly. She would eventually make history as one of the select few female pilots enrolled in the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) training program and became one of only two Chinese American women who broke into the WASP ranks.
Gee’s legacy: After the war, Gee returned to the University of California, Berkeley, to earn a bachelor’s degree in science and a master’s degree in physics. She later used her knowledge to contribute to pivotal research at Berkeley’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. While there, she also engaged in groundbreaking work in weapons systems, leaving an indelible mark on the scientific community.
Gee received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2010, three years before she passed away at the age of 89.
Her extraordinary achievements and contributions will be highlighted during the grand induction ceremony for the 16th Class of the California Hall of Fame, which will be held virtually on Aug. 22 at 6:00 p.m. PDT.