Early in 1911, the word got around among reporters covering aviation in the New York area that something unusual was going on at an airfield near Mineola, Long Island. But it wasn’t until June 28 that an anonymous journalist from the New York Herald nailed it down. “For the first time since the sport of aviation was started in this country,” he wrote, “two women were in flying machines at the same field and time yesterday.” His story was flashed to newspapers across the country, and the two ladies, Blanche Scott and Harriet Quimby, were overnight sensations.
It is difficult for us to comprehend now just how much the news of America’s first women pilots must have meant to a generation of women trapped in the hopelessness of sweatshops and menial labor or suffocated by the respectability of a middleclass life that permitted no step not even a glance beyond certain narrow, circumscribed patterns of life. In 1911, women were not able to vote-that issue was not laid to rest until the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920. They could not serve on juries or hold public office in most states; they found such professions as medicine and law closed to them more often than not; they were discriminated against in laws relating to ownership of property; and whenever they tried to do something about their situation, they were branded as wantons or worse.
SHE IS LEADING WOMAN AVIATOR
Miss Harriet Quimby is the leading woman aviator of the world. She may be seen daily in flight at the Moisant aeroplane grounds, near Garden City, on Long Island. She has strong nerves, not fearing to fly long distances nor to soar to great heights. She uses a monoplane and has thorough practical knowledge of the construction of aerial craft.
– –San Antonio Express, May 31, 1911
Harriet Quimby (right) and Matilde Moisant (left), the first two women in the United States to become licensed airplane pilots.
This advertisement, found in Leslie’s, was one that would typically be seen around the turn of the century find students for various flight schools. Men and women responded with a desire to become pilots.