Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Women in Early Aviation

My next story will be set in 1917, as America enters WWI. At this time in history, flight was a fairly new phenomenon.

My heroine is captivated by airplanes. In central Minnesota, where she lives, she has only seen one airplane in her life. When a Curtiss JN-3 (bi-plane) flies overhead and lands in a nearby field, she will do whatever it takes to get a ride in the air...and eventually she convinces the handsome pilot to teach her how to fly.

1916 Curtiss JN-3 Bi-Plane
In my research, I've discovered some amazing women who pioneered aviation. I thought I'd share just two of these women, but I'm including a fun link to the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, where you can learn more.

National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution
The Baroness Raymonde de le Roche was the first woman in the world to receive her pilot's license. She learned to fly a plane in 1909, just three years after the plane was invented! She lived in France and won a competition for a 4 hour non-stop flight, as well as set a record for altitude in 1919. Sadly, the same year, she was attempting to be the first female test pilot for a new type of aircraft and crashed to her death. There is now a statue of her at the airport in Le Bourget, France (which I visited in 2010).

National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Harriet Quimby was the first woman in the United States to receive her pilot's license, in 1911. Harriet went on to be the first woman to fly across the English Channel. Her advisor wasn't sure a woman could accomplish the task, so volunteered to dress like her and complete the feat in her name--but she refused him. In 1912, Harriet was flying in the Harvard-Boston Aviation Meet and was tossed from her plane, to her death. Ironically, the plane glided to a perfect landing.

Sadly, both of these early aviators died pursuing their passion, but many more lived to tell amazing tales about their flying days. I encourage you to stop by the Air and Space site to discover more. You can find that link here.

Your Turn: Would you be brave enough to fly an airplane only three years after it was invented?


  1. I love this era of aviation. If you need more information that is MN specific check out "Minnesota Aviation History 1856-1945" by Noel E. Allard and Gerald N. Sandvick. GRRL has it as do I - more than welcome to borrow my copy. :)

  2. Wow, what bravery! I'm not sure I'd be that brave...

  3. What an inspiring post! And, no, I don't think I'd be brave enough to try flying a plane that early after the invention of the plane. :)


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