Harriet Quimby added to Michigan register of Historical Sites by: Brendan Straubel ARCADIA TOWNSHIP – A ceremony to officially add the childhood home of aviatrix and journalist Harriet Quimby to the Michigan Register of Historic Sites will be held here Thursday at I p.m. at the home site, southeast of Arcadia.
In 1911 Quimby became the first woman in the United States to earn a pilot’s license, and one year later became the first woman to fly solo across the English Channel. A Michigan Historical Marker will be dedicated at the ceremony, which describes Quimby’s childhood in northern Manistee County as well as her accomplishments as a pilot and writer.
Featured speakers at the dedication will be Michigan State Historic Preservation Officer Brian D. Conway and Col. Edward Y Hall, a Quimby biographer. A single-plane fly-over, a performance by the Onekama High School band, and a presentation by the Arcadia Veterans of Foreign Wars will also be featured.
A reception at Arcadia Elementary School will follow the dedication.- The public is invited to both the dedication and the reception. Bus transportation to the dedication site will leave from the Township, Hall on Lake Street in Arcadia at 12:30 p.m.
In her day, Quimby was a well known journalist, dramatic critic, and adventurer barred from early attempts to learn to fly because of her gender. Quimby disguised herself as a man to complete flight training.
Her successful flight over the English Channel on April 16, 1912 however coincided with the sinking of the ocean liner Titanic and received little press coverage at the time, perhaps permanently obscuring her place in history. She was killed just three months after the crossing when she was thrown from her plane while performing at a Boston air show. She was 28 years old.
While working as a journalist in New York City, Quimby often claimed to be the daughter of a wealthy East Coast family. In fact, she was the daughter of Michigan farmers.
After her death, Coldwater was accepted as Quimby’s birthplace, and a Michigan Historical Marker was later placed in the south-central Michigan city. However, Arcadia resident Bonnie Hughes, using census data, school records and personal accounts, convinced state historians last year that Quimby’s family lived at the site on Erdman Road, southeast of Arcadia, at the time of Quimby’s birth and remained there through her early teen years.
The birthplace marker in Coldwater has now been replaced by one indicating that “local tradition” maintains Coldwater is Quimby’s birthplace, while the marker outside Arcadia officially marks Quimby’s “childhood home”. Absolute proof as to the location of Quimby’s birth has yet to be established and will be difficult to prove, according to state historic preservation officials.
This is a picture of the Quimby homestead in Arcadia, Michigan. Most recent accounts of Harriet Quimby’s childhood place this house as her childhood home. (Photo by Ed. Y. Hall)