Aug. 13, 1911: Second U.S. Woman to Earn Pilot’s License

Posted on Sat, August 13, 2016

On August 13, 1911, Matilde Moisant became the second woman in the United States to receive her pilot’s license, just a few weeks after her friend Harriet Quimby.

Full length portrait of Matilde J. Moisant posed standing in her heavy tweed flight suit, with gloves, leather flying helmet and goggles pushed up; she wears a (pre-WWII) swastika brooch as a good luck charm; 1911.

Moisant pursued a career in exhibition flying, along with Harriet Quimby, with the Moisant International Aviators, touring the U.S., Mexico, El Salvador, and Cuba. Moisant fascinated crowds with her record-setting flights. On September 24, 1911, she soared to the astounding height of 366 meters (1,200 feet) in her 50 hp Moisant monoplane, breaking the women’s altitude world record and flying higher than many of her male counterparts.

Later that year, Moisant caused a stir by flying her airplane on a Sunday against the wishes of Nassau County police. The New York Times wrote:

“Matilde Moisant, who became America’s most notable woman flier… narrowly missed being thrown into jail yesterday…”

According to the writer, Moisant escaped in part because “an indignant crowd of 300 citizens” beat back the police in a riot that lasted nearly a half hour. A later attempt by the sheriff to serve Moisant with a warrant failed when the Justice of Peace said he could see nothing wrong with flying on a Sunday. 

Rearview shot of an early airplane with Moisant in cockpit looking over her shoulder and smiling at the camera.

View of Matilde J. Moisant, looking over her shoulder towards the camera. A barograph is mounted to her plane for her attempt at the Wanamaker Trophy awarded for altitude flights. Image: SI-80-440