History of the American Aviator – Part 4 – Women in Aviation

While the men of their time were getting all the attention as they tinkered and took to the skies, women played a vital role in the dawn of aviation as well. One must recall that gender equality was not the norm in the early 1900’s. Women had more traditional societal roles, even among the affluent and privileged. In spite of this, this aviatrix was born. Here’s our list of some notable women from aviation’s infancy.

Lillian Todd

Lillian Todd

  • Lilian Todd (1865 – 1937) Self-taught inventor and the first woman in the world to design/build an airplane. Her first working model flew in 1910.
  • Blanche Stuart Scott (1885 – 1970) A protégé of Glenn Curtis, this wild child is credited by some as the first woman to pilot an airplane solo, albeit possibly unintentional. She later became a stunt pilot, Hollywood script writer, and radio performer.
  • Bessica Medlar Raiche (1875 – 1932) – Untrained and inexperienced, became the “First Woman Aviator in America” by piloting a Wright type biplane that she and her husband designed and built in their yard in the summer of 1910. They were among the first to experiment with lighter materials like silk, bamboo, and wire.
  • Harriot Quimby (1875 – 1912) – Became America’s first aviatrix, earning her pilot’s license in 1911. Other accomplishments that year include writing seven screenplays and achieving the first night flight by a woman. In 1912 she became the first woman to fly across the English Channel solo.


    Harriet Quimby

  • Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman (1892 – 1926) – First African American aviatrix and the first African American person to hold an international pilot license.


    Bessie Coleman



Spanning the 20th Century, women like Amelia Earhart, Amy Johnson, Ruth Nichols, Jackie Cochran, Nancy Harkness Love, Jerry Mock, and a host of other greats made monumental contributions to American civil and defense aviation. From 1925 to 1935 the aircraft made many improvements worldwide fueled by the spirit of enterprise and competition. With the Axis Powers on the march, that spirit soon forwarded to the inevitability of another world war.

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