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The Golden Age Of Women In Aviation Around The World

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

Since the golden age, women have had pioneering roles in the history of aviation. From the days of Marie Élisabeth Thible of France, the first woman to fly in a hot-air balloon in 1784 to Aarohi Pandit of India, the first female pilot in the world to fly solo in a light-sport aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Greenland ice sheets in 2019. Aviatrics- women pilots- in history have been attaining major milestones even in the face of constant prejudice, sexism and underrepresentation.

While women in America had only received the right to vote, back in the early 20th century, groundbreaking females were taking to the skies and writing history as the first female aviators in their country.


One notable individual who contributed as the first female aviator in the world is French baroness Raymonde de Laroche. Taught by Charles Voisin, Raymonde became the first woman to pilot a solo flight in an aeroplane in 1909 and the world's first woman to earn a pilot license in 1910. Setting the record for other women like Marthe Niel, Marie Marvingt, Hélène Dutrieu, Jeanne Herveu, Marie-Louise Driancourt and Harriet Quimby.

Another French most accomplished female aviator in 1921 is Adrienne Bolland. She was awarded Legion of Honor by the French government after setting a world record as the first woman to fly over the Andes.


In the same year, Belgian world cyclist, stuntwoman, actress and aviator, Hélène Dutrieu set an early aviation record as the first female pilot in the world to fly with a passenger. In November, she doubled as the first Belgian woman to earn a pilot license and flew a seaplane.

During the First Balkan War in 1912, Bulgarian Air Force nurse Rayna Kasabova participated in the Military fight and became the first woman in the world to do so.


The first woman to co-found a flight school was Britain's first female licensed aviator and entrepreneur, Hilda Beatrice Hewlett. With Gustav Blondeau, they both founded the first flying school in the United Kingdom and an aircraft manufacturing business. Later in 1920, the Old Bird emigrated with her family to Tauranga, New Zealand.


Although she got less recognition for it, Blanche Stuart Scott was the first American woman to fly an aeroplane accidentally in September 1910. Later in October, Bessica Raiche received from the Aeronautical Society of New York, a gold medal recognizing her as the first American woman to make a solo flight.

Harriet Quimby was not only the seventh woman in the world to earn a pilot license, but the first female American woman to do so. An adventurous magazine journalist with a committed passion for aviation, Harriet convinced the magazine company she worked with to fund her flight lessons. She earned her pilot license in 1911.

Harriet is the first woman to fly across the English Channel by aeroplane in 1912. She earned the name America’s First Lady of the Air.

In the same year, on June 15, Bessie Coleman became the first African-American and the first Native-American woman to earn an international pilot license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in France. She earned her license after being rejected by aviation schools in America for being black and a woman. Coleman died at the age of 34 and could not live long enough to achieve her dream of establishing a school for young black aviators.

Another famous American female aviator is Kansas born Amelia Earhart. The first female aviator and author to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She played a vital role in the development of the female pilot organization called The Ninety-Nines. For one year, Earhart taught at Purdue University and in 1937 on one of her adventures to become the first woman to fly around the world, she disappeared mysteriously.


Right after Harriet, on 10 August 1911, Lydia Zvereva became Russia’s pioneering aviator and the first female to earn an aeroplane license. Zyereva only lived for 26 years competing in many airshows in Europe and managed an aircraft manufacturing factory in Riga with her husband Vladimir Victorovich Slusarenko.

Also, from Russia came the first woman in space Valentina Tereshkova on 16 June 1963.


After being allowed to fly in an upcoming flight display with no stir in the public, Amelie Beese became Germany’s first female aviator and 9th in the world. In 1912, Amelie founded a flying school at Johannisthal airfield and patented an aircraft design.

16 years after Margarete (Marga) von Etzdorf co-piloted for Lufthansa and became the first female to fly for an airline. On 18 August 1931, she began flying solo across Siberia, Tokyo and Japan.


Born into an affluent family, Beatrix de Rijk of Dutch received her pilot license from the Aéro-Club de France and became the Dutch first female pilot on 6 October 1911.


The first female licensed pilot in the Austro-Hungarian empire is Lilly Helene Steinschneider-Wenckheim on 15 August 1912. One month after receiving her license, she participated in airshows.


The first Italian woman to receive a pilot license No. 203 from the Aeroclub of Italy is Rosina Ferrario.

South Africa

Sponsored by the Union of South Africa alongside ten other flight trainees, the Italian descent Ann Maria Bocciarelli became the first woman to receive a pilot license in Africa from the Paterson Aviation Syndicate in 1913.

The first female black pilot in South Africa is Asnath Mahapa in 1998. Upon obtaining her private pilot license on 8 October 1999, Asnath went on to work for renowned organizations such as the South African Air Force, United Nations World Food, Red Cross, DHL and Airbus 340.

South Africa also brought Africa’s first all-female aviation company, SRS Aviation founded by airline executive, Sibongile Sambo in 2004.


Tadashi Hyōdō in 1922 became Japan’s first woman pilot to earn a license. Four years after 1925, Kwon Ki-ok of Korea became the first female pilot in China and the first Korean female aviator. During the Japanese invasion of Korea, Kwon went into exile in China and became a lieutenant colonel in the Republic of China Air Force. Right after world war II in 1945, she returned home to independent Korea and established the Republic of Korea Air Force.


Ontario born Eileen Vollick was issued a Private Pilot Certificate on 22 March 1928 at Elliot Flying School. She earned recognization as Canada’s first female pilot. Eileen also became the first Canadian woman to parachute into water.

The following year, Queen of the Hurricanes, Elsie MacGill became the first woman in the world to earn a master degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan.


Pioneering Scottish Aviator and Aeroplane engineer Winifred Drinkwater became the first woman to hold a commercial pilot license in 1932.


The same year Urmila K. Parekh became India’s first woman given a pilot license. Sarla Thakral at 21 years old, was the first to earn a private pilot license in 1936 while Prem Mathur became India’s first commercial pilot.

On 2 September 1994, Harita Kaur Deol became the first woman with the Indian Airforce to make a solo flight in the Avro HS-748 at age 22.


The first woman from the Arab world to be granted a pilot license was Egyptian aviator Lotfia ElNadi. Against her father’s will, Elnadi worked as a secretary and telephone operator for her flight school tuition. She secretly studied for 67 days and earned her license on 27 September 1933.

More Arab women became motivated to become pilots like Dina-Carole El Sawy and Touria Chaoui of Morocco.


The first Ghanaian to fly de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk aircraft solo is Melody Danquah. 35 years later, Selase Agbenyefia became Ghana's first female military helicopter pilot.


In 1978 when Jill Brown-Hiltz made history has the first African-American female aviator to fly for an American airline, Texas International Airlines, Nigerian Chinyere Kalu became the country’s first woman to fly an aircraft in Nigeria. She further received recognition on 20 May 1981, has Nigeria’s first female commercial pilot after earning her license from the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria.


The Republic of Zambia had its first female pilot by the name Yichida Ndlovu in 1981. Yichida flew for Roan Air from 1981 to 1999 then settled as a public servant with the Zambian government.


Zimbabwean-born Sakhile Nyoni-Reiling is Botswana’s first female pilot in 1988. Later in 2011, she served as general manager for Air Botswana.

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