Harriet Quimby

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Notice of death in the Fort Wayne Sentinel

Harriet Quimby (born May 11, 1875 in Coldwater , Michigan , † July 1, 1912 in Boston ) is considered the first important American female pilot . On April 16, 1912, she was the first woman to cross the English Channel in a solo flight .


Harriet Quimby came from a farming family in Michigan; Little is known about their childhood and schooling. From 1897 she lived in San Francisco to become an actress, but then worked as a journalist. At the age of 27, she moved to New York City to pursue her journalistic career, where she wrote regularly for Leslie’s magazine . She was also successful as a photo and travel reporter; she toured Cuba, Europe, Egypt and Mexico.

Harriet Quimby in her Blériot monoplane in 1911

In 1906 she discovered her passion for fast cars while doing a report on the Vanderbilt racecourse and bought a car herself. In her mid-thirties she was an independent, successful woman who traveled the world and was able to support her parents materially.

Quimby's interest in aviation was aroused in October 1910 when she attended a flight competition at Belmont Park, where she met John Moisant , a popular aviator and flight instructor famous for winning a Statue of Liberty competition . His sister Matilde and Harriet Quimby took flying lessons from John Moisant and his brother Alfred Moisant. The Wright brothers were not accepting female student pilots at the time. Although John Moisant was killed in a crash shortly afterwards, the two women continue class.

Quimby continued to work as a journalist during this time and in 1911 wrote seven screenplays for silent films that were produced by DW Griffith .

On August 1, 1911, Quimby became the first woman in the United States to receive her flight license. A series of pioneering achievements followed, including the first female pilot's night flight and, together with Matilde Moisant, the first female pilot's flight over Mexico. Quimby reported in Leslie’s about her flying adventures and designed future scenarios of large passenger aircraft and the establishment of regular airlines.

Quimby's next big goal was to cross the English Channel from England to France, which Louis Blériot had done in the opposite direction for the first time in 1909. Blériot, her one of his 50-horsepower Bleriot XI - monoplane borrowed, was also one of the few people who learned of their plans so that no one could from Europe to forestall her. In March 1912 she traveled to England, where Blériot sent her the plane. She behaved inconspicuously and waited for good weather. On April 2, the British aviator Gustav Hamel thwarted her plans to be the “first woman across the Channel” when he took his compatriot Eleanor Trehawke Davies with him on a flight across the English Channel - but only as a passenger. Two weeks later, on April 16, Quimby took off from Dover under a cloudy sky at 5:30 a.m. and landed 59 minutes later on a beach about 40 kilometers from Calais , where she was enthusiastically received by the locals. In the press, however, her flight received little attention, as the sinking of the Titanic dominated the headlines the day before.

After her return to New York, Quimby planned more show and competition flights, the next - the third Boston Aviation Meet - was scheduled for July 1, 1912 in Quincy, Massachusetts . She was accompanied by the organizer William Willard; the two started in a new 70 HP monoplane machine from Blériot. After a normal sightseeing flight, the aircraft suddenly leaned forward at a height of almost 450 meters for unexplained reasons and threw out the occupants who were not wearing their seat belts. They fell to their deaths in front of around 5,000 spectators in Dorchester Bay .

On July 4, 1912, Harriet Quimby was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery; her remains were transferred to Kenisco Cemetery in Valhalla , New York, a year later .

Web links

Commons : Harriet Quimby  - Collection of Images