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Harriet Quimby

First American Woman to Earn a Pilots License

Harriet Quimby was noted for her daring, courageous spirit and achieved fame as one of the first woman reporters for a major newspaper, The San Francisco Call.” By 1902 she had written in several other publications, but she is best remembered as the first American woman to earn a pilot’s license. Harriet Quimby was born on May 11, 1875, in Kinderhook Township, Michigan and educated in private schools in America and Europe. The family came to California, and she took a job as a writer for the Dramatic Review of San Francisco. It was in her position as drama critic for Leslie‚s Weekly that her attention turned to aviation. Her instruction was at the Moisant School of Aviation in Hempstead, Long Island. In 4 months and 33 lessons, Harriet flew for her Fédération Aéronautique Internationale License (FAI) July 31, 1911, and on August 1, 1911 she became the first licensed female aviator in the United States. Her license number was FAI # 37. Harriet bought a Bleriot monoplane and had it shipped to Dover, England, with the intention of becoming the first woman to fly the English Channel. On Tuesday, April 16, 1912, about 5:30 a.m., Harriet took off across the Channel from Dover. Gustav Hamel was her adviser and worried that a woman could not complete such a feat. Harriet‚s goal was Calais, France, but she arrived 25 miles north in Hardclat on a sandy fishing beach. She was met by many villagers who had heard about her attempted flight. She was feted in Paris and London and received a big welcome to the United States in May. She brought back a new Bleriot two–seater and performed at various aviation meets at the start of summer, often carrying passengers.

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