In the past, people perceived aviation as a vocation fit only for men. Despite this, many women aviators went on to make their mark in the field. Their fascinating stories and forays in the aerial realm continue to inspire and awe. Here are the 20 of the greatest women trailblazers who left their mark in the sky for others to follow.

 

The first-ever American woman to make an accredited solo flight, Bessica Raiche was famous as the “new” woman of the 20th CE for her involvement in so-called masculine activities such as swimming and shooting. In October 1910, the Aeronautical Society honored her with a gold medal for being America’s first woman aviator.

 

Sister of the famous Wright brothers, Katharine Wright is perhaps aviation’s unsung heroine. Not only did she provide moral and financial support to her brothers, she also flew demonstration flights with them in 1909.

 

Baroness Raymonde de Laroche was the first French woman to become a licensed pilot in 1910. She won the Femina Cup, awarded by the Aero Club of France in 1913.

 

The second American woman to get her pilot’s license, Matilde Moisant also served by raising funds for the Red Cross during World War 1.

 

After receiving her license in 1928, Bobbi Trout went on to set many records. In 1929, she set the endurance record of 12 hours and 11 minutes. She was the first woman to fly through the night. Bobbi Trout won the Howard Hughes Memorial Award in 1997.

 

Famously known as ‘Lady Lindy’, Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and the Pacific in 1932 and 1937 respectively. Earhart is not only known for her outstanding career but also for the courage with which she pursued the cause of equal treatment for women.

 

This brave aviator was the director of the Women’s Army Service Pilots (WASPs) during the Second World War. She holds many altitude, distance and speed records. In 1953, Cochran became the first woman pilot to beat the speed of sound. At the time of her death in 1980, she had more speed and altitude records than any other aviator in history.

 

One of the most famous women aviators, Bessie drew inspiration from the aviators of the First World War. She learnt French and moved to France to undergo training. She was the first African-American woman to earn a pilot’s license and was a master at stunt flying and parachuting.

 

This female aviator was the first American woman to travel to space in June 1983. She was also America’s youngest astronaut. She went on to become the Director of the California Space Institute. She won the NASA Flight Medal and the NCAA Theodore Roosevelt Award.

 

Amy Johnson was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. She participated in the Second World War as part of the Air Transport Auxiliary. Her first aircraft, named ‘Jason’, after her father’s fish business trademark, is on display at the Science Museum’s Flight Gallery.

 

In 1929, Fay became the first woman pilot to save her life by bailing out of an aircraft. In 1972, she was one of the three women who accompanied President Nixon to China.

 

The first American woman to earn a glider pilot license was Anne Lindbergh. She was also the first woman to win a National Geographic Society Hubbard Gold Medal.

 

Katherine Cheung was the first Chinese aviator to get a pilot license. She mainly worked as a commercial pilot.

 

Often referred to as “The Flying Housewife”, Geraldine Mock was the first woman to successfully fly around the world. She wrote a book on her solo global flight called ‘Three-Eight Charlie’.

 

A modern female aviator, Barbara Barrett was the former Vice Chairman of the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board and the former Deputy Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administrator. Barett was nominated by President Trump this year to head the U.S. Air Force.

 

Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to travel into space. She travelled the Earth’s orbit 48 times in Vostok 6 spacecraft in 1963. She won the Order of Lenin, Gold State Medal and the UN Gold Medal for Peace.

 

In 1911, Harriet Quimby became the first American female licensed pilot. She was the first woman to fly across the English Channel.

 

The first British pilot to make a solo global flight, Sheila Scott broke over 100 light-aircraft records within a span of eight years (1965 – 1972).

 

The first woman to fly over Polar Regions, Polly Vacher’s chief success lies in doing so for raising scholarship funds for the disabled. She also took up the ‘Wings around the World Challenge’ where she landed at all of UK’s airfields.

 

Patty Wagstaff was the first woman to win (and among the select few to retain thrice), the title of US National Aerobatic Championship.

 

We’ve come a long way since women flying airplanes engendered displeasure and disapproval. These pioneering women aviators must be remembered for their contributions and for paving the way for the women that followed suit.

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