Female pilots have been on the scene and in the skies not too long after the Wright brothers made their first historic flight. In honor of Women’s History Month, here’s a timeline showing those notable American women and their accomplishments beginning over a century ago.
Dubbed the first woman pilot in 1910 when the plane she was taxiing became airborne. She would go on to set a long-distance flying record for women of 10 miles on July 30, 1911, and then a 25-mile record in August 1911. She performed the lead role in the first movie made about flying, The Aviator’s Bride. In 1912, she joined aviator designer Glenn Martin as a Martin employee and became the first woman test pilot in America. In 1948, she would become the first female passenger to ride in a jet plane.
Earned her pilot’s license in 1911 after convincing the magazine she worked with to pay for her flying lessons so she could write about the experience. She would fly across the English Channel the following year, earning her the nickname America’s First Lady of the Air.
Dubbed the Flying Schoolgirl, -she became the first woman to fly the U.S. mail when she dropped mailbags from her plane at the Montana State Fair. Stinson captivated audiences worldwide with her fearless feats of aerial derring-do. In 1918, she became the first woman to fly both an experimental mail route from Chicago to New York and the regular route from N.Y to the District of Columbia.
The first female African American pilot received her license in 1921 in France. She was known as Brave Bess and Queen Bee for her famous stunts.
She took her first plane ride in 1920 and flew across the Atlantic as a passenger in June 1928 — becoming the first woman to do so. She also became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic as a pilot in 1932. She disappeared in1937 while attempting to be the first woman to fly around the world.
Set a record in women’s endurance flight from Oakland Municipal Airport, Calif., in a Travel Air, with a flight of 22 hours, 3 minutes in 1929.
Broke Thaden’s record a month later with 26 hours, 21 minutes over Roosevelt Field, N.Y. She was also the youngest licensed pilot in the world at age 16.
The first woman of Chinese ancestry to earn a pilot’s license.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Wife of Charles Lindbergh, she was the first U.S. woman glider pilot and first woman recipient of the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Award.
Phoebe Fairgrave Omelie
First woman transport pilot considered to be one of America’s top women pilots in the 1920s and 1930s. She developed a program for training women flight instructors and was appointed as Special Assistant for Air Intelligence of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the forerunner of NASA).
Earned her pilot’s license in 1932 while working as a beautician and cosmetics salesperson. She was the first woman to compete in the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race in 1935. She went on to win the race in 1938. In 1953 Cochran was appointed director of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) during World War II and was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean. She was also the first woman to fly faster than the speed of sound in 1953, piloting an F-86.
Most women who learned to fly during World War II got instruction through the Civil Pilot Training Program. More than 935 women gained their licenses by 1941 with 43 serving qualified instructors.
As World War II progressed, women were able to break into many aspects of the aviation world. Many served as ferry and test pilots, mechanics, flight controllers, instructors, and aircraft production line workers. At the beginning of 1943, more than 30 percent of the aviation workforce were women.
Geraldine (Jerrie) Mock
The first woman to fly solo around the world (nearly 30 years after Earhart’s attempt), earning the nickname -the flying housewife and an FAA award from President Lyndon B. Johnson. She was also one of the first women to study aeronautical engineering at Ohio State University.
Emily Howell-Warner learned to fly at Clinton Aviation Company in the 1960s. She then became the school’s manager and chief pilot. In 1973, she became the first female pilot at a scheduled U.S. airline when Frontier Airlines hired her. She became the first female captain three years later.
On June 18, 1983, Ride made her mark as a trailblazer when she strapped into her seat on the Space Shuttle Challenger becoming America’s first female astronaut.
American Airlines’ first female captain in 1986. She also led the airline’s first-ever all-female flight crew of a Boeing 727 jetliner.
Became the Navy’s first African American female naval flight officer in 1989. After eight years of service, she became a White House Fellow in the Treasury Department and earned an MBA from Johns Hopkins. President Obama appointed her to the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors in 2016.
Flew around the world in a helicopter in 97 days, becoming the first woman to achieve the feat. She did it again (flying solo) in 2000, and became the first woman to fly a helicopter to the South Pole in 2003.
Earned a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University before she joined the Air Force in 1992. She became the first female fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force in 1993 and the first female fighter wing commander in 2012.