On This Date: 5 Facts about Harriet Quimby

Then I was off. The noise of the motor drowned the shouts and cheers of friends below. In a moment I was in the air, climbing steadily in a long circle. I was up fifteen hundred feet within thirty seconds. ~ “An American Girl’s Daring Exploit,” Harriet Quimby


Harriet Quimby was born on May 11, 1875, in Michigan.

In 1911, Quimby became the first woman in the United States to be granted a pilot’s license–license #37. Her good friend became the second. Quimby won an air race roughly a month after getting her pilot’s license, earning her $600.

Before devoting great time and energy to flying, she made her living as a writer, publishing pieces in the San Francisco Drama Review, Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, Good Housekeeping, and more. She seems to convinced Leslie’s to pay for her flying lessons so that she could chronicle her adventure for their readers. She also wrote seven screenplays for D.W. Griffith’s silent movies.

On April 16, 1912, Quimby was the first woman to pilot an airplane across the English Channel. She might have been and remained even more famous for this feat if the Titanic hadn’t sunk the day before.

Quimby died on July 1, 1912, at the age of 37. She and her passenger were thrown from her Blériot aircraft when it pitched forward; they both died as a result of their injuries. In 1991, she was memorialized on an airmail postage stamp.

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