"When you are flying toward a cloud, it does not seem as if you yourself are moving. The cloud seems to be rushing at you. And when you enter it, you are in the thickest fog you ever imagined. . . . I have been in clouds so dense I couldn’t see my own hands operating the controls."—Katherine Stinson
Amelia Earhart is well-known as the first woman to fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean by herself, capturing America’s undying fascination when she mysteriously disappeared somewhere over the Pacific while attempting to fly around the world. While people have been entranced by Amelia Earhart for decades, there were plenty of other noteworthy women also taking to the air during the early days of flight.Other less known but no less impressive female fliers include Baroness Raymonde de Laroche, the first woman ever to receive a pilot’s license, Bessica Raiche, the first woman to make a solo flight in an aircraft, and Jacqueline Cochran, the first female pilot to break the sound barrier. Another famous flier is Katherine Stinson, an integral part of American and Texan history.
Born on Valentine's Day, 1891 in Fort Payne, Alabama, Katherine Stinson grew up wanting be a piano teacher, but her parents could not afford to send her to Europe for music lessons. When Stinson heard you could make up to $1000 a day as a stunt pilot, she sought out aviation to make the money for Europe, but loved the the thrill of flying so much that she decided to stick with it, becoming one of the earliest female fliers in the world.
Katherine Stinson was only the fourth woman in the United States to earn a pilot’s license and was also the first woman to perform an aerial loop, a stunt she performed as many as 500 times without a single accident. She was the first pilot of either sex to produce night skywriting with fireworks, spelling out "Cal" over California. In the states, she was known as the "Flying Schoolgirl" (newspapers commonly mistook Stinson as 16-years-old, when she was actually 21), and she also performed as far away as China and Japan, where crowds heralded her as the “Air Queen.” In 1917 she set a world long-distance record by flying alone 610 miles from San Diego to San Francisco.
In 1911, the Stinson family relocated to San Antonio and established the Stinson School of Flying, and later, Stinson Field, San Antonio’s first municipal airport and the 2nd oldest general aviation airport in the United States. During World War I, Katherine volunteered as a pilot but was turned down because she was a woman. Seeking other ways to help, she raised $2 million for the Red Cross through air shows and piloted airmail deliveries, one of the first women authorized to carry airmail in the U.S.
Fear, as I understand it, is simply due to lack of confidence or lack of knowledge—which is the same thing. You are afraid of what you don’t understand, of things you cannot account for.—Katherine Stinson.
Images from today's post came from our Harry Walker Photographs and University of Houston Campus Life collections. Make sure to check out the rest of our collections at the UH Digital Library!