The First Woman to Ever Get a Pilot’s License was from Michigan
Harriet Quimby was born in Coldwater and grew up in northern Michigan. She would soar to fame as a pioneering pilot and Hollywood actress before her tragic end.
As the National Aviation Hall of Fame enshrined Harriet Quimby, they declared, "She was as bold and tenacious as she was beautiful." Quimby built a larger than life persona as not only the first American woman to be granted a pilot's license, but also the first female to fly across the English Channel.
Quimby may have come to that lifelong dream early on under Michigan skies. She was born in Coldwater, and the family soon moved to Arcadia Township in Manistee. In fact, you can find a historical marker dedicated to her remarkable life in both cities and even see her childhood home where she was born in 1875 in this post on the Historical Michigan Facebook page.
In the early 1900s, her family moved to San Francisco, California, where Harriet became a journalist. She would further this career path with a move across the country to New York. It wasn't until she was in her mid-thirties in 1911, that Quimby took her pilot's test and became the first U.S. woman to earn an Aero Club of America aviator's certificate. She fell inlove with flying and her journalism background was useful in crafting the narrative of the daring woman in the purple satin flight suit with high-laced boots. She parlayed that notability into roles in couple of Hollywood films, and was a screenwriter of five other motion pictures.
Her real life story does not have a Hollywood ending. Harriet Quimby racked up many firsts in aviation. She was the first female to cross the English Channel and the first American woman to earn a pilot's license. Tragically, she died doing what she loved, as she and a passenger were ejected from an airplane on July 1, 1912 and fell to their deaths.
Learn more about the high-flying life of this feminist aviation pioneer with her roots in Michigan in the National Aviation Hall of Fame video profile below.
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