Women pioneers in aviation history
In the common imagination, the aviation industry is almost always dominated by figures of men. The female component is, in fact, often relegated to the role of hostess or flight attendant. Still, in truth, several women have left their mark with their accomplishments and have made a significant contribution to the history of aviation.
On International Women's Day, we would like to pay tribute to these incredible female aviators, women who pursued a dream by determinedly defying social conventions and whose exploits are still a source of great inspiration to aviation enthusiasts all over the world.
The first flight license issued to a woman
It was precisely March 8, 1910, when Raymonde de Laroche, a pseudonym for Elise Raymonde Deroche, earned her flight license, the first one awarded to a woman.
From then on her name went down in history, paving the way for many other women who would prove themselves by challenging the skies in increasingly heroic feats. A memorial statue at Le Bourget Airport in Paris is named after her.
The first woman to fly an airplane
Although Raymonde was the first woman to obtain a pilot's license, she was not, however, the first to fly an airplane. This record belongs to Parisian Thérèse Peltier, the first true "aviatrix" in history, whose first flight landed in Turin in 1908 after traveling about 200 meters at a height of 2.5 meters.
The first airplane owned by a woman
Originally from Massachusetts, when she was only 21 years old Ruth Law bought her first airplane from Orville Wright, a famous aviation pioneer who, however, refused to give her flying lessons because he claimed that women were not mechanically inclined.
This only strengthened the determination of Ruth, who was already a skilled mechanic, and who shortly decided to embark on the titanic feat of breaking the airspeed record set by Victor Carlstrom (452 miles). So it was that on November 19, 1916, she made her nonstop flight from Chicago to New York State, covering 590 miles (950 km).
Then, President Woodrow Wilson attended a dinner in her honor on December 2, 1916.
During World War I, she insisted on joining the airborne troops, but President Wilson did not give her permission.
However, she continued to fight for women to be allowed to enlist, going so far as to write an article for Air Travel Magazine entitled "Let Women Fly!"
The first African American woman pilot
If these were tough years for women, they were even tougher for African American women. These included Bessie Coleman, who was forced to move to France in order to obtain her license because she was not accepted in flight schools in the United States.
Not only was she the first African American woman to obtain an international flight license in 1920, but she also distinguished herself through her aerobatics shows, which earned her the title "Queen Bessie."
She never got to realize her dream of establishing a school for young black aviators because of a flying accident that cost her her life.
The Italian record
Eighth woman in the world to earn a pilot's license and first in Italy, we find Rosina Ferrario, remembered for launching a shower of red carnations at the 1913 Naples Aviatorial Meeting.
Despite the performance she gave for King Victor Emmanuel III on the occasion of the centenary of Giuseppe Verdi and the letter addressed to the Minister of War, she was not granted permission to enlist in the aviation corps nor to bring aid to wounded soldiers because, it is explained, "there is no provision for the enlistment of young ladies in the Royal Army." She was granted only the Medal of Merit for Air Force Pioneers on January 23, 1943.
Rosina was an inspiration to many young heroines including Gabriella "Gaby" Angelini (in photo), who made a 25-day trip around Europe aboard the Breda 15 I-TALY tourist plane, thanks to which she received a congratulatory letter from the Minister of Aeronautics Italo Balbo.
Gaby, unfortunately, died in 1932 from a sandstorm while flying over the desert of Libya. It is said that this incident convinced Benito Mussolini that aviation was "a man's business".
The flight over the Atlantic
Among the women who have left their mark on aviation history is Amelia Earhart, the first woman to cross the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Paris in 1928 after the failed attempts of three other heroines, who paid for their mistake with their lives.
Amelia was also the first pilot to fly from Honolulu to Oakland in 1935, and her life is remembered in the famous film "Amelia Earhart: The Last Voyage" (2009).
The birth of the WASP Division
Another female aviation pioneer who played a central role in opening up for women pilots in the United States Army Air Forces was Jacqueline "Jackie" Cochran.
Jackie began flying out of passion to promote Wings and Beauty, a cosmetics company she founded whose ambassadors included Marilyn Monroe. The first woman to fly a bomber, Jackie joined Wings For Britain shortly before the U.S. entered World War II, a fleet tasked with bringing American planes to England.
A great advocate of the importance of women's entry into the air force, she personally wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt to recruit women pilots and establish an all-female flying division and, from July 1943, was responsible for overseeing the training of hundreds of women pilots for the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).
Among the many speed records set during her career, Jackie was also the first woman to fly in the supersonic regime when, on May 18, 1953, at Rogers Dry Lake in California, her Sabre 3 broke the sound barrier with an average speed of 1050 mph.
Considered the best female pilot in the United States, the "Speed Queen" won five Harmon Trophies and at the time of her death, no other pilot held more speed, distance, or altitude records in aviation history.
The record-breaking round-the-world flight
Accomplishing Amelia Earhart's last feat was aviator Geraldine "Jerrie" Mock in 1964. Already among the first women to graduate from Ohio State University with a degree in aeronautical engineering, Geraldine went down in history as the first woman to fly solo around the world in a single-engine Cessna 180, nicknamed "The Spirit of Columbus."
Departing from Columbus, Ohio, on March 19, 1964, Jerrie took 29 days before returning on April 17 of that year, having flown some 36,800km and made 21 stopovers
The Hélène Cup
Hélène Dutrieu, a Belgian aviatrix known as "The Human Arrow" because of her countless cycling successes, was the first woman to pilot a seaplane and the first to fly a plane with a passenger.
Distinguished, among other things, for her performances in air shows, Hélène was also a motorcyclist, car driver, and ambulance driver during World War I, awarded the Legion of Honor in 1913. In 1956 she initiated the "Hélène Dutrieu Cup," awarding a prize of 200,000 francs each year to the French or Belgian pilot capable of the longest non-stop flight.
Question: Who was the first woman to obtain a flight license? Answer: The first flight license issued to a woman was awarded to Raymonde de Laroche, a pseudonym for Elise Raymonde Deroche, on March 8, 1910. From then on her name went down in history, paving the way for many other women who would prove themselves by challenging the skies in increasingly heroic feats.
Question: Who was the first woman to fly an airplane? Answer: Thérèse Peltier, a Parisian aviatrix, was the first woman to fly an airplane in 1908. Her first flight landed in Turin after traveling about 200 meters at a height of 2.5 meters. She was the first true "aviatrix" in history and is considered to be one of the pioneers of aviation.
Question: Who was the first African American woman pilot? Answer: Bessie Coleman was the first African American woman to obtain an international flight license in 1920. Because she was not accepted in flight schools in the United States, she was forced to move to France in order to obtain her license. She also distinguished herself through her aerobatics shows, which earned her the title "Queen Bessie." Coleman never got to realize her dream of establishing a school for young black aviators because of a flying accident that cost her her life.