Women In Aviation

Female aviators were the forebears of women’s rights before the movement even existed. Trying to excel in a man’s field, they were flatly told they couldn’t.  There were even ridiculous attempts to ground them, including a movement to prove that women weren’t mentally stable enough to fly during menstruation.  With all that adversity, take a look at these amazing women aviators who broke through and accomplished what none had done before.

Raymonde de Laroche

1910: French aviator Raymonde de Laroche becomes the first woman to receive a pilot’s license.

1912: Less than one year after becoming the first American female to obtain a pilot’s license, Harriet Quimby is the first woman to fly across the English Channel.

1918: Marjorie Stinson is appointed the first female airmail pilot by the U.S. Postmaster General.

Bessie Colman, female aviator

1921: Bessie Coleman becomes the first African American (of either sex) to be granted a pilot’s license.

1934: Helen Richey is hired by Central Airlines, becoming the first female pilot for a U.S. commercial airline.

Amelia Earhart

1935: Amelia Earhart breaks multiple records. She becomes the first person to fly solo across the Pacific, going from Hawaii to Oakland, CA; then the first to fly from Los Angeles to Mexico City.

1936: For the first time, women are allowed to compete against men at the prestigious Bendix Trophy Race. With seven airplanes racing (four piloted by men), Louise Thaden becomes the first woman to win the coveted trophy. Another woman, Laura Ingalls, wins second place.

Charlotte George Smith1967: Polio survivor Charlotte George Smith declared the first woman with paraplegia to earn a non-commercial pilot’s license according to the FAA Aero Medical Division. Her license qualified the NASA scientist to become a member the “Ninety-Nines” Houston Chapter that year.

1953: Jacqueline Cochran is the first woman to break the sound barrier.

1979: Long before commercial airlines accommodated wheelchair using passengers, then-NASA scientist Charlotte George Smith was a regular frequent flyer. She achieved a second “first” in “Women in Aviation” history as a polo survivor with paraplegia when she flew around the world as a passenger in 30 days on a Pan Am commercial flight with members of the Houston chapter of the celebrated Ninety-Nines.

1991: Patty Wagstaff becomes the first female U.S. National Aerobatic Champion.

Jessica_Cox2008: Born without arms, Jessica Cox is the first pilot to earn a certificate using only her feet.

These are just a few of the amazing women in aviation history. There are many more.  Today, it’s so much easier for a woman to learn to fly. There are clubs like Women in Aviation (www.wai.org) and the Ninety-Nines (www.ninety-nines.org) that offer support and guidance.


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