Sunday, 11 March 2012

Women pilots celebrate first English Channel flight

Women pilots celebrate first English Channel flight

Oddly enough I was thinking just the other day, after reading several blogs celebrating International Women's Day on the 8th, who my heroines are.  Then I remembered all the female pilots of the early 20th Century and the pioneering flights they undertook - a microcosm of women's general battle for equality.  Names like Amy Johnson, Amelia Earhart and Diana Barnato-Walker sprang to mind; now this commemoration and accompanying article from the B.B.C. adds another woman to that list - Harriet Quimby.

Even before she became the first woman in the United States to have a pilot's licence Harriet Quimby was already doing what was, at the time, still a very male-orientated job - journalism.  As a theatre critic for various San Franciscan and New York newspapers and later an author of several early Hollywood screenplays Quimby was obviously possessed of an imaginative and enquiring mind so perhaps it should come as little surprise that she became interested in aviation, particularly with her links to the media which was so enamoured with powered flight in the years following Kitty Hawk.

After learning to fly in 1910 Quimby continued to work in between aviating and even used the latter as an advertising gimmick when she appeared in a unique purple aviatrix outfit to promote a new soda drink.

On the 16th April 1912 Harriet Quimby performed another flying first by becoming the first woman to fly across the English Channel and it is the centenary of this feat that female pilots from around the world commemorated in Kent yesterday - as well as the wider-ranging Women of Aviation Worldwide Week - and which is reported in the accompanying article.

Sadly less than three months later aged only 37 Harriet Quimby was killed in a flying accident in Massachusetts when for some unknown reason her aeroplane suddenly pitched forward at 3,000 feet and threw Quimby and her passenger out.  With no parachutes at that time, there was no hope of survival.

It is only right therefore that this lady and her inspiring first flight is celebrated as part of the wider acknowledgement of the history of women in aviation and it is wonderful to see so many female pilots having turned up to commemorate both this remarkable event and worthy cause.  Here's to many more flying femmes and the memory of the first few aviatrices who paved the way.

Harriet Quimby in the Moisant monoplane in which she learned to fly


  1. Those early women pilots had to be something special. We are taught some of the names of early women pioneers and what they did throughout history, but seldom are we told of all, and of the ones in the books, the detail of all their accomplishments rather than a brief mention of one thing.

  2. I just think it's amazing that anyone had the 'gumption' to fly these machines at all! Special sort of people. X

  3. Fabulous post on women that deserve to be remembered more.

    PS I've been having trouble commenting on the blog - the comment form doesn't work for wordpress or open url log ins (for me at least).


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