#WomensHistoryMonth: Harriet Quimby

Harriet Quimby was a journalist and film screenwriter, but she is best known for breaking the glass ceiling of the American aviation industry. She was the first woman in the United States to receive a pilot's license and the first woman to fly across the English Channel. Harriet pioneered women in aviation, creating many opportunities for future women. 

Harriet was born in Michigan in 1875. Her family later moved to San Francisco, where she began her career as a journalist writing for the San Francisco Chronicle. She later moved to New York City and worked as a drama critic for Leslie's Weekly. In 1910, her passion for aviation was sparked after she visited an air show at Belmont Park. 

Her strong determination led her to take lessons at Moisant School of Aviation at Hempstead, Long Island, where she quickly learned to fly from Alfred Moisant. On August 1, 1911, she passed her pilot's test and became the first American woman to qualify for a license. Quimby was only the second woman in the world to earn a license, following only a year after a woman in France named Raymonde de Laroche. In 1912, after much preparation, she demonstrated her bravery and immense skill as the first woman pilot to cross the English Channel, where she flew from Dover, England, to Hardelot, France. Sadly, this major accomplishment received little media attention since it happened the day after the sinking of the Titanic, which garnered all public attention. 

Harriet is inspirational for navigating obstacles of prejudice against her as a woman. The media focused heavily on her feminine image and appearance in her plum-colored flying suit, which undoubtedly shifted the attention away from her skills. Despite this, she continued to dedicate herself to flying and spoke optimistically of a future where all women take up flying as a pastime. 

Harriet was a trailblazer not just for women in aviation but for all women. She was fiercely independent and seen as a "radical woman" in her day because she owned a car, smoked, flew a plane, and traveled the world extensively on her own. By breaking the traditional mold, Harriet challenged gender roles and demonstrated the untapped potential women hold. Harriet is a role model because she confidently entered the male-dominated field of aviation and accomplished major feats that were unimaginable for a woman at the time. I am grateful for her achievements because she is yet another example of a woman demonstrating that there is no industry in which a woman can't flourish. She opened the door for women in aviation and facilitated women's involvement in all aerospace aspects. Harriet Quimby is an inspiration for our team at WPLN.