Monday, February 8, 2010

Before Raymonde de Laroche

Why this title?

A very valuable book in the history of women aviation pioneers is called Before Amelia. This title irritates a few people, as Amelia Earhart wasn't the first or even necessarily the best woman pilot, she is just the most famous. (That's not a dig at Earhart, I'm just stating the facts. While Earhart was concentrating on her long distance flights, other women were out doing other things, but none of them received her press. And of course, none of them disappeared in the Pacific Ocean.)

But for the average reader today, the title does work. If it was called Before Louise, it wouldn't be clearly a book on aviation, for all that Louise Thaden was one of the brightest stars in the women pilots firmament. But call it Before Amelia, and practically everyone can extrapolate what it's about!

So that's where the title of this blog entry comes from. "Before Raymonde de Laroche." She did not appear out of whole cloth. There were many women before her who liked to do adventurous things and did them, despite the fact that in so doing they a) risked their lives and b) scandalized polite society.

1784 - Elisabeth Thible becomes the first woman to fly - in a hot air balloon

1798 - Jeanne Labrosse is the first woman to solo in a balloon

1809 - Marie Madeleine Sopie Blanchard becomes the first woman to lose her life while flying - she was watching fireworks in her hydrogen balloon

1880 - July 4 - Mary Myers is the first American woman to solo in a balloon

1903 - Aida de Acosta is the first woman to solo in a dirigible

1906 - E. Lillian Todd is the first woman to design and build an airplane, though it never flew

1908 - Madame Therese Peltier is the first woman to fly an airplane solo (according to some reports).

(From's Women in Aviation section.

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