September 21, 1817 Sophie Blanchard, the first woman balloonist, crashed into a swamp and nearly drowned. Two years later she would become the first woman killed in an aviation accident, in an incident that involved fireworks, flammable gasses, and the roof of a house. After her death, Genville Mellen wrote that the accident proved “a woman in a balloon is either out of her element or too high in it.” Blanchard’s flying was renowned through France where she entertained Napoleon. Louis XVIII proclaimed her the “Official Aeronaut of the Restoration.”
September 20, 1909 Lillian Todd, the first woman to apply for a pilots license, was refused a permit to conduct an “aeroplane test” in Richmond, New York. In 1906, Todd had been the first woman to invent a “heavier than air machine” which, unfortunately, never flew. She went on to found the Junior Aero Club.
September 19, 1937 The Chicago Girls’ Flying Club held an Air Carnival with the Ninety-Nines, featuring novelty acts, comedy, cross country and spot landing competitions. Over 15,000 spectators attended and the Marguerite Greene trophy was awarded to Emma Sprague for the Best Spot Landing.
September 18, 1928 The German dirigible LZ-127 Graf Zepplin was launched. The next year, British reporter Grace Drummond-Hay flew around the world in the hydrogen-filled airship. The trip made Lady Drummond-Hay a star. An adventuress, she reported from exotic locations all over the world and was interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II.
September 17, 1993 Flyer Patti Johnson became the first women to win a closed pylon championship against men in the Reno National Air Races, whipping her yellow biplane around the course in a searing 5 minutes 32.35 seconds, averaging over 202 miles per hour.
September 16, 1910 Bloomer-wearing Bessica Medlar Raiche, one of the first female doctors to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, achieved another major first, becoming the first woman in the United States to fly an airplane solo. She and her husband built the plane from bamboo, silk and pieces of a Wright Flyer. They later substituted the piano wire with heavy wire made of iron.
September 15, 1909 New Zealand’s most celebrated aviatrix, Jean Batten, was born in Rotaru. In 1934, she flew solo from Australia to England in 14 days and 22 hours, beating the record by over 4 days. Known as the “Greta Garbo of the Skies,” the reclusive Batten died alone from an untreated dog bite in 1982.
September 14, 1946 Fifteen year old Lorna DeBlicquy soloed in a Piper J-3 Cub. The next year she became the youngest female in Canada to make a parachute jump. Lorna later worked as a flight instructor and professional pilot, flying a Waco biplane across northern Manitoba, hauling fish and supplies.
September 13, 1911 Amelie Beese became the first German woman to earn a pilot’s license on her birthday, September 13. A determined woman, she’d had a difficult time finding a flight instructor who’d teach her after she crashed her first teacher’s plane and after her own plane was sabotaged by competing pilots.