Today in 1912, Harriet Quimby became the first woman to fly over the English Channel. This was her second record-setting accomplishment; the year before, she was the first woman in the U.S. to receive a pilot’s license.
Quimby’s life was like three movies squashed into one. She started out as a farm girl, then headed to California to become an actress and screenwriter. When she realized she was more suited to covering news than covering the classics, she became an award-winning photo-journalist for a magazine in New York. Her life was a fascinating and independent one; she supported herself, never married and drove her own car, three major quirks for the time period in question.
Airplanes were simply one more challenge Harriet Quimby couldn’t resist, and after she received her license, her fame grew even stronger. She continued her career as a writer and aviatrix until the end of her life, three short months after today’s flight. At the age of 37, she died in a stunt plane accident when she and her passenger fell from the monoplane. Her accomplishments set the stage for Amelia Earhart and other strong, capable women across the country and around the world.