January 5, 1895 High altitude balloonist Jeannette Ridlon Piccard was born. Piccard was the first American woman to earn a balloon license and the first to fly into the stratosphere, achieving an altitude of 10.9 miles over Lake Erie. The flight was planned with support from Dow Chemical, Goodyear, and the National Geographic Society but “the National Geographic Society would have nothing to do with sending a woman—a mother—in a balloon into danger” Piccard observed. All three pulled their funding. Piccard eventually got the balloon off the ground with the help of several small Detroit companies and by selling her story to newspapers. Piccard later became one of the first women ordained as an Episcopal priest.
I had an AMAZING time at my favorite bookstore, Politics & Prose. Even though we had torrential rain in Washington well over 100 children and adults braved the weather and came out to hear me talk about Soar, Elinor! and my hero Elinor Smith. Thanks Blessed Sacrament and Capitol Hill Day School!!! You SOAR!
One student asked if Elinor ever crashed her plane and I promised to post this picture-
Thankfully Elinor walked away from this crash unhurt. The plane was repaired and she flew it again.
I also told students about Elinor’s funny cat. Here’s a picture of her with him. She’d just returned home after setting an endurance record- flying for over 26 hours without landing. Doesn’t she look tired? Her best friend is on her lap in this photo, wearing her flight goggles!
Thanks everyone for coming out yesterday! It was wonderful to meet you all.