America’s First Lady of Air

Harriet Quimby once said, “the men flyers have given out the impression that aeroplaning is very perilous work, something that an ordinary mortal should not dream of attempting. But when I saw how easily the man flyers manipulated their machines I said I could fly.” Quimby was a woman aviator before Amelia Earhart. In fact, Quimby was the first woman to receive a pilot's license in the United States.

Quimby was not only a woman aviator, but she was also journalist and film critic for the Leslie Illustrated Weekly in New York City. Little did Quimby know that working for the Leslie Illustrated Weekly would start her journey as a woman pilot. While on assignment for Leslie Illustrated Weekly, Quimby met a flying instructor named John Moisant. Quimby was so fascinated by Moisant’s job. That she asked him if she could take lessons from him.

In May 1911, she started flying school in Long Island, New York. She was the first woman at the flying school to begin flight training. Now airplanes during this time were still “a work in progress.” The Wright Brothers just successfully invented the first aircraft in 1903. So Quimby was learning how to fly planes, while the books and sciences of flight were still being written.

Plus, the United States didn’t even have laws or regulations for flying planes until 1926. However, this didn’t stop Quimby from learning how to fly. In just four short months, in August of 1911, Quimby earned her official pilot's license. This gave her the title the “first woman in the United States to get a pilot’s license.”

Quimby then joined the exhibition circuit, where she flew at meets in the United States and in Mexico. She was known for flying in a plum-colored flying suit with elegant jewelry. Her fashion and flying skills got her tons of media attention. Plus, her articles written for the Leslie Illustrated Weekly helped her spread her fame across the globe.

In 1912, Quimby traveled to England. Quimby worked out a deal with the London Daily Mirror. In exchange for funding her attempt to fly across the English Channel, the London Daily Mirror would get exclusive coverage. This quest was never tried by a woman before. But Quimby attempted and succeeded on April 16th, 1912, which happened on this day 106 years ago.

Harriet Quimby was a woman who wasn’t afraid to follow her dreams. She took risks and showed the world that aviation was not a passing trend. Harriet Quimby’s flying proved that women can be fearless. That women can accomplish anything they put their mind to. Quimby was America’s frst lady of the air.