Harriet Quimby is fondly classified as been one of the more famous female American aviators. However, her career was very short lived but she was the first American woman to fly over the English Channel and to receive a license as a pilot. Quimby was, in addition, a movie screenwriter and even though her death was untimely, she played a very important role in influencing women and aviation.
Her Career And Her Life
Harriet Quimby was born on 1st May 1875 in Arcadia, Michigan. It was believed that William and Ursula were very wealthy and educated their daughter in America. Harriet only had one sister who was older than her named Kittie. In the early part of the 1900’s she moved with her family to San Francisco, California and it was in the year 1902 that she took on her first job in the form of a writer for the company known as Dramatic Review.
In 1903 she decided to move to New York city where she took on her next job as a writer for Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly were over 250 articles that she wrote were published over the next 9 years. The articles she wrote involved “Home and the Household” tips which involved advice to women about budgeting their income, methods to find a job, how to live well on modest incomes as well as tips on repairing their own automobiles.
Quimby always had dreams about finding her career as a journalist, but these plans quickly went out the door in 1910 when she attended the Belmont Park International Aviation Tournament. This event was held on Long Island in New York. This is where she met a woman by the name of Matilde Moisant as well as her sibling John who was in those days an operator of the Mineola flight school and a famous American aviator.
Harriet with her new found friend Matilde learned how to fly in a school based in Hempstead New York. This is where she became the very first woman in the U.S to achieve a pilot’s certificate. Matilde followed shortly and was known as the 2nd female pilot with a certification in the U.S. After receiving her license she joined up with an exhibition team that formed part of the Moisant International Aviators where she traveled to the country of Mexico and later became the very first lady that flew over Mexico City.
In the year 1912, Harriet started to prepare for her English Channel flight by borrowing a Bleriot monoplane with a 50-horsepowerr from Louis Bleriot. Gustav Hamel, her consultant who was not sure about her abilities as a woman to make such a flight offered to fly on her behalf. She refused this offer and on the 16 April 1912 she flew from Dover, in England, to Hardelot in France and became instantly famous on her successful return to the U.S.
About three months later on the 1 July 1912, Quimby made her very last flight that was based at the Harvard-Boston Aviation Meet. This was the flight that caused her untimely death in a tragic accident. She took this flight with William Willard in the Bleriot when the plane suddenly went into what is known as a nose-dive. William was ejected from the seat and this was followed by the aircraft flipping over that caused Quimby to fall out of the plane. Both Willard and Quimby fell and then died at the Dorchester Harbor. It is said that ironically the Bleriot aircraft then landed with very little damages to it.
The story of another famous female aviator can be found here.