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(Library of Congress)

Flying With America's Most Famous Female Aviators

Dozens of talented women preceded Amelia Earhart, and thousands have followed, and each has her own groundbreaking story to tell

Bessie Coleman (1892-1926)

Bessie Coleman
(Smithsonian Institution / Corbis)

Turned down by U.S. flight schools because she was black, Coleman went to France, where in 1921 she earned the first International Pilot’s License issued to an African-American woman. Returning to the U.S., where she was annointed “Queen Bess” by aviation enthusiasts, she flew at exhibitions and encouraged blacks of both sexes to take up flying. Before she could raise the money to open a flight school, she was thrown to her death in 1926 as her plane went into a spin while she was rehearsing for an airshow.

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