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Born near Coldwater MI, May 11, 1875. Died at Boston MA, July 1, 1912.
Harriet Quimby, born on a farm, moved to California in 1902 to begin a career as a journalist for the San Francisco Call-Bulletin, then to New York City in 1903, where she became drama critic and editor of the Woman's Page for Leslie's Illustrated Weekly.
In 1910 she watched John Moissant fly from Belmont Park on Long Island to the Statue of Liberty and back in an air race. This first experience with flight captivated her, and then and there she decided she would learn how to fly. Accompanied by Moissant's sister, Mathilde, they began taking lessons in 1911 at the Moissant School of Aviation in Garden City, where, because of the social pressures, both women dressed disguised as men for their lessons.
So that learning to fly would not interfere with her work, Quimby scheduled lessons for sunrise when the air was calm and so she could keep secret her activities. However, one reporter sensed a newsworthy story, and papers soon gave it almost daily coverage, much of that based on the girls' controversial costumes. Women at the time were hobbled by Victorian dress codes, so the idea of females dressed in trousers and men's shirts was quite revolutionary, if not a bit shocking.
On August 1, 1911 she became the first woman in the U S to earn a pilot's license, and the second such in the world. Later she was the first to make a night flight, on September 5, 1911, and the first woman to pilot an airplane across the English Channel. On April 16, 1912, on a cold and overcast morning in Dover, England, Quimby set out on the then-perilous 22-mile flight to Hardelot, France, in her open-framework Blériot monoplane. The crossing took one hour and six minutes, but Quimby's historic achievement was buried by larger headlinesthe steamship Titanic went down the night before!
Quimby died at Boston when she was thrown from her airplane during an exhibition flight witnessed by thousands. The idea of seat belts had not been thought of at the time. ( Peter Bergen)
Enshrined in National Aviation Hall of Fame 2004.