Amelia Earhart is the most iconic woman in aviation, and for a good reason. She began her career as one of the first women to get her pilot’s license (at the age of 16 to be exact) and became a minor celebrity when she set the record for being the first woman to fly across North America. From here, she kept the records rolling, but this isn’t a story about Amelia Earhart. You already know that one.
This post seeks to shed some light on lesser-known, but equally awesome, women in aviation. Keep reading to be inspired and amazed.
If you are a current or an aspiring female pilot, you should be thankful for Raymonde de Laroche. Raymonde de Laroche was the first female pilot in the world. You might think that would be enough. Not for Raymonde. In 1913, she competed in the Coupe Femina and won with a flight of over four hours. She also went on to set records for the longest flight by a woman.
At 26 years of age, Kate McWilliams is believed to be the youngest female pilot. She began flying with the air cadets at the young age of 13. So even though she is young, she has plenty of experience under her belt. She first joined the easyjet team at the age of 21 and worked her way up to captain within five years.
There is now an airport named after this pioneer, and make no mistake about it, that’s because of her epic status. Not only was she the first Turkish woman to earn a pilot license, but she was the first woman in the world to fly a plane in a combat role.
Women like Harriet Quimby paved the way for women like Kate McWilliams and others to prosper. Harriet was the first woman to earn her pilot license in the United States. This took place in August of 1911. Sometime later, she became the first woman to cross the English Channel by plane. Harriet was more than a pilot by profession, she was also a journalist and screenwriter.
Helene Dutrieu was the first Belgian woman to earn her pilot license and she hit the ground running from there. Although her first attempt at flying wasn’t a success, she later proved herself by setting records for altitude and distance. Also of note, she was the first woman to fly for over an hour and the first to fly with a passenger. In 1910, she broke records for longevity with a flight time of 2 hours and 35 minutes. In 1910, with a flight time of 2 hours 35 minutes, she won the Coupe Femina, a competition that awarded 2000 francs to the woman with the longest flight-time by the end of the year. For her aviation achievements, she was awarded the French Légion d’honneur.
To say Bessie (Elizabeth) Coleman faced obstacles on her path to becoming the first African American woman pilot would be an understatement. She wasn’t allowed to attend flight schools in the United States, so she learned French and learned to fly in Paris. This is where she earned her license before returning to the United States as a pilot. Here, she made a career out of stunting and performing air show demonstrations. She made it her personal mission to break down racial barriers where she could, and that included at her shows. Segregation was not allowed at her airshows.
Amy Johnson was a British pilot who earned her license in 1929. It wasn’t long after that until Amy started breaking records. She was the first woman to fly from London to Australia alone and has set various other records for distance and speed.
It is amazing to think about what these women have accomplished in their lives. They provided proof and inspiration to younger generations that anything is possible. Aviation has traditionally been a male-dominated profession, but these women have chipped away at the barriers and provided others with equal opportunity.
Which of these women do you find most inspiring?
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