Harriet Quimby

Harriet Quimby (May 11, 1875 – July 1, 1912) was an early American aviator and a movie screenwriter. In 1911, she was awarded a U.S. pilot's certificate by the Aero Club of America, becoming the first woman to gain a pilot's license in the United States.[1] In 1912, she became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. Although Quimby lived only to the age of 37, she influenced the role of women in aviation.

Harriet Quimby
Harriet Quimby 1911
Quimby circa 1911
BornMay 11, 1875
DiedJuly 1, 1912 (aged 37)
OccupationWriter, aviator

Early life and early career

She was born on May 11, 1875 in Arcadia Township, Manistee County, Michigan. After her family moved to San Francisco, California, in the early 1900s, she became a journalist. She moved to Manhattan, New York City in 1903 to work as a theater critic for Leslie's Illustrated Weekly and more than 250 of her articles were published over a nine-year period.[2]

Quimby became interested in aviation in 1910, when she attended the Belmont Park International Aviation Tournament in Elmont, New York.[2] There she met John Moisant, a well-known aviator and operator of a flight school, and his sister Matilde.[3][4]

On August 1, 1911, she took her pilot's test and became the first U.S. woman to earn an Aero Club of America aviator's certificate.[2] Matilde Moisant soon followed and became the second.[5]


Harriet Quimby, by Theodore Marceau
Photograph of Quimby in 1911 by Theodore Marceau

In 1911 Quimby authored seven screenplays or scenarios that were made into silent film shorts by Biograph Studios. All seven were directed by director D. W. Griffith. Stars in her films included Florence La Badie, Wilfred Lucas, and Blanche Sweet. Quimby had a small acting role in one movie.[6]

Vin Fiz

The Vin Fiz Company, a division of Armour Meat Packing Plant of Chicago, recruited Quimby as the spokesperson for the new grape soda, Vin Fiz, after the death of Calbraith Perry Rodgers in April 1912. Her distinctive purple aviator uniform and image graced many of the advertising pieces of the day.[7]

English Channel flight

On April 16, 1912, Quimby took off from Dover, England, en route to Calais, France, and made the flight in 59 minutes, landing about 25 miles (40 km) from Calais on a beach in Équihen-Plage, Pas-de-Calais. She became the first woman to pilot an aircraft across the English Channel.[8] Her accomplishment received little media attention, however, as the sinking of the RMS Titanic the day before consumed the interest of the public and filled newspapers.[9]


Portrait of Matilde Moisant (left) and Harriet Quimby (right) Circa 1911-1912
Harriet Quimby and Matilde Moisant, circa 1911–12

On July 1, 1912, she flew in the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet at Squantum, Massachusetts.[1] Although she had obtained her ACA certificate to be allowed to participate in ACA events, the Boston meet was an unsanctioned contest. Quimby flew out to Boston Light in Boston Harbor at about 3,000 feet, then returned and circled the airfield.[10] William A.P. Willard, the organizer of the event and father of the aviator Charles Willard, was a passenger in her brand-new two-seat Bleriot monoplane. At an altitude of 1,000 feet (300 m) the aircraft unexpectedly pitched forward for reasons still unknown. Both Willard and Quimby were ejected from their seats and fell to their deaths, while the plane "glided down and lodged itself in the mud".[4]

Harriet Quimby was buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York. The following year her remains were moved to the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.[11]


A 1991 United States airmail postage stamp featured Quimby.[12]

She is memorialized in two official Michigan historical markers. One is located near Coldwater where she was born.[13] The other was erected near the now abandoned farmhouse in Arcadia Township where Quimby grew up.[14]

In 2004 Quimby was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.[3]

In 2012 Quimby was inducted into the Long Island Air and Space Hall of Fame.[15]

The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome possesses a flyable Anzani-powered one-seater Blériot XI, which bears the Blériot factory's serial number 56, showing that it was manufactured in 1909. Since Quimby's plane, in 1912, was a brand new two-seater, the idea that the former was the aircraft that she was flying in 1912 seems to be an urban legend.[16]


See also


  1. ^ a b "Miss Quimby Dies In Airship Fall. Noted Woman Aviator and W.A.P. Willard, Passenger, Are Thrown 1,000 Feet". The New York Times. July 2, 1912.
  2. ^ a b c Tallman, Jill W. (August 2, 2011). "Thanks, Harriet" (Harriet Quimby profile). AOPA Pilot. Archived from the original on December 21, 2014. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Harriet Quimby profile". The National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Harriet Quimby profile". centennialofflight.net. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  5. ^ "An American Lady Aviator". Flight. August 26, 1911. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  6. ^ Internet Movie Database, Harriet Quimby (and links therein); accessed April 16, 2009.
  7. ^ Holden, Henry M. "Vin Fiz reborn". Airport journal. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
  8. ^ "Miss Quimby Flies The Channel"Flight April 20, 1912
  9. ^ "Titanic Sinks Four Hours After Hitting Iceberg". The New York Times. April 16, 1912. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  10. ^ "Harriet Quimby Crash, 1912". CelebrateBoston.com. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  11. ^ "Aeronautics – Harriet Quimby". Aeronautics Learning Laboratory for Science Technology and Research. Florida International University. December 20, 2004. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  12. ^ Sama, Dominic (April 28, 1991). "Stamp Honors First Woman Licensed Pilot". Chicago Tribune. Knight-Ridder Newspapers. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  13. ^ "Harriet Quimby". The Historical Marker database. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  14. ^ "Harriet Quimby Childhood Home". The Historical Marker database. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  15. ^ Melanson, Alana (May 16, 2012). "Fitchburg pays tribute to first woman to fly across English Channel". Fitchburg, Massachusetts: Sentinel & Enterprise. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  16. ^ Pat Trenner (April 15, 2013). "Did Harriet Quimby's Blériot End Up in New York?". airspacemag. Retrieved March 2, 2016.

External links


1912 (MCMXII)

was a leap year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and a leap year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar, the 1912th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 912th year of the 2nd millennium, the 12th year of the 20th century, and the 3rd year of the 1910s decade. As of the start of 1912, the Gregorian calendar was

13 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

Arcadia Township, Manistee County, Michigan

Arcadia Township is a civil township of Manistee County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the township population was 621.

The unincorporated community of Arcadia is located within the township on M-22 on the shore of Lake Michigan. Arcadia is at 44°29′35″N 86°13′54″W. The elevation is 587 feet (179 m) above sea level. The ZIP code is 49613.

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Matilde Moisant

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Moisant Aviation School

The Moisant Aviation School was a school in the early days of aviation founded by Alfred Moisant at Hempstead, Long Island, New York. Alfred and his brother John Bevins Moisant formed the Moisant International Aviators, a flying circus which toured the United States, Mexico and El Salvador. John had learned to fly in France with Louis Bleriot but died in 1910 in an accident. The school had six Bleriot monoplanes equipped with 50 horse power Gnome motors.Many early aviators learned to fly or perfected their skills at this school, among them Harriet Quimby first American pilot, Matilde E. Moisant, John's and Alfred's sister and the second woman to obtain a pilot's license in the United States, the Aldasoro brothers Juan Pablo and Eduardo, two Mexican pilots who had started to fly gliders in 1909, Dante Nannini Sandoval, first Guatemalan Pilot, and Bernetta Adams Miller, the fifth licensed woman pilot in the U.S. Under the auspices of the school, Bernetta Miller demonstrated the Moisant/Bleriot monoplane to the U.S. Army in October, 1912, and subsequently made an unsuccessful attempt on the women's altitude record.

An instructor at the school, Albert Jewell disappeared on 13 October 1913 on flight from the Hempstead airfield to Oakwood, Staten Island, NY to take part in an air race; he is assumed to have come down at sea off the south shore of Long Island.

Quimby (surname)

Quimby is an English surname derived from a toponym such as Quenby. Notable people with the surname include:

Darius Quimby (died 1791), first American law enforcement officer killed in line of duty

Edith Quimby (1891–1982), American medical researcher and physicist

Fred Quimby (1883–1965), American cartoon producer, best known as a producer of Tom and Jerry cartoons

Harriet Quimby (1875–1912), the first female pilot in the United States

Phineas Quimby (1802–1866), a 19th-century American philosopher

Robert Quimby (born 1976), American astronomer

Roxanne Quimby (born 1950), American businesswoman and philanthropist

Shirley Leon Quimby (1893–1986), American physicist

William R. "Bill" Quimby (born 1936), American author

Theresa Maxis Duchemin

Theresa Maxis Duchemin (1810-1892) was an American missionary. She opened multiple schools and orphanages in the Michigan and the Pennsylvania area. For her work was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.

Tricia Saunders

Tricia Saunders (born Patricia McNaughton, on February 21, 1966 in Ann Arbor, Michigan) is an American amateur wrestler. She is a true pioneer of the sport of Women's Freestyle Wrestling. She earned a total of five FILA Wrestling World Championships medals: four gold and one silver. Throughout her career she never lost to an American, and collected eleven national titles.

She was the first woman to be inducted to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Stillwater, Oklahoma and the first American woman to be inducted into the FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame in Istanbul, Turkey.

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