Harriet receives her pilot’s license
Miss Harriet Quimby, alighting in triumph after having successfully passed the test of the Aero Club for her pilot’s license on August 1, 1911.
Harriet Quimby, the first American woman to gain a pilot’s license, was described by her contemporaries as a “tomboy full of verve and spunk who was prepared to try anything.” The fact that she was a successful journalist at a time when very few women entered the professions is a pointer to her character.
In 1910, Quimby went to Belmont Park in California to report on one of the earliest flying displays. She was, as she recorded, “completely seduced by flying” and immediately set about learning the skills of what was then a hazardous pastime. After she was issued Flying License No. 37, she toured the country giving exhibition flights. Quimby was seen as an intrepid heroine who had struck a blow for women’s advancement in a man’s world of derring-do. In 1912, she sailed for Europe and won bold headlines when she became the first woman to fly the English Channel piloting a machine built by French aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot.
Three months later, Harriet Quimby lost her life. She was flying at 2,000 feet over Boston harbor with a passenger aboard her aircraft when suddenly, and for no explained reason, she and her passenger were seen to hurtle from their cockpits. Both were dead when picked up.
America’s second woman aviator was Mathilde Moisant who gained Pilot’s License No. 44 in 1911. She, too, appeared at air meets, and for a time she held the altitude record of 5,000 feet. In 1912, when flying over Texas, her aircraft caught fire, but Moisant managed to land safely. Although she suffered only minor burns, the experience-and the cautions of her friends-persuaded her to give up flying.
Mathilde Moisant and Harriet Quimby often flew together on exhibition flights, and together they were the confessed inspiration of the most famous of all women flyers-Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly the Atlantic.
The Saturday Globe ran an article on August 12, 1911, announcing Harriet’s success on obtaining her pilot license.