Rhea Hurrle Allison Woltman grew up in central Minnesota and attended St. Cloud Teacher’s College. But she always wanted to fly, so after just a couple of years of teaching in a one-room schoolhouse, she moved to Texas and started training as a pilot. Starting with her first plane, a Piper J3, Woltman progressed from a private pilot to a commercial pilot, then earned her rating as an instructor for flying airplanes by instrument. Woltman eventually attained her C-plane rating for airplanes with floats and her rating as a glider pilot. She flew competitively, and she also completed one of the major flights of the era for women, a solo flight from Houston to Anchorage in a Piper Super Cub with floats.
In the early 1960s, the United States was engaged in The Space Race. Woltman was working as a charter pilot in Houston, having already logged almost 2,000 flight hours. She was tapped as one of the women to undergo testing to participate in the secret Mercury project, submitting to the same rigorous medical and physical tests as her male counterparts, from sensory deprivation to weightless training to scuba certification. Woltman and 12 other women pilots became the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATS), now known as the Mercury 13. Woltman was prepared and eager to undertake space flight, but the Mercury 13 never reached their goal. The U.S. government shut down the women’s program without their ever being able to fly a space mission, but these women led the way for other American women to travel into space. In 2007, the University of Wisconsin conferred on Woltman and the remaining Mercury 13 astronauts an Honorary Doctorate in Aeronautics, honoring them as pioneers in aviation history.
Woltman moved to Colorado Springs in the early 1970s, where she did glider training and towing for Air Force Academy cadets at the Black Forest Glider Port. She grounded herself in order to participate in her husband’s business. Her interest in parliamentary procedure led her to become a professional Registered Parliamentarian, the highest level of proficiency in the field. She was the first parliamentarian for the U.S. Olympic Committee and has served many other organizations across the country as parliamentarian, including the Colorado Association of Hospital Auxiliaries.