because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Katherine Stinson

Originally, Katherine Stinson wanted to be a pianist, but she couldn't afford lessons, so in 1912, at the age of twenty-one, she got her pilot's license instead. Her plan was to make money flying around doing exhibitions to pay for the music lessons. What she didn't count on was liking cruising through the clouds so much, she forgot about the piano.

The first aviation teacher she approached would only let her go up as a passenger. The next one refused to teach her to fly because she was a woman. But Stinson was so insistent, the pilot finally agreed to give her a "trial" lesson and four hours later, she was flying on her own.

Because she looked so young, she was advertised as "The Flying Schoolgirl," though she tried to tell reporters her true age. They just didn't believe her. Or it made a better story to say she was sixteen.

After flying more than 500 loops during exhibitions without a single accident, Stinson turned to teaching others how to fly at a school she opened in Texas with her sister Marjorie, who was also a pilot. Then, she spent a while flying Airmail for the postal service. But when World War I came along, she volunteered to drive an ambulance for the Red Cross in Europe, contracted the flu and then tuberculosis, and wound up out of the sky permanently. Still, she maintained her in-your-face attitude. "My mother never warned me not to do this or that for fear of being hurt," she was quoted as saying. "Of course, I got hurt, but I was never afraid."

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