March being Women’s History Month, it seems appropriate that this month marks a major event in women’s history: It's been one hundred years since the first woman received a pilot's license.
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.
1910: French aviatrix 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.
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.
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.
1953: Jacqueline Cochran is the first woman to break the sound barrier.
1991: Patty Wagstaff becomes the first female U.S. National Aerobatic Champion.
2008: 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.
Plus, programs like the nonprofit Let’s Go Flying (www.letsgoflying.com) provide resources, advice and a list of flight schools, many of which even offer discounted introductory flights.