Although her flight is not considered “official,” this day in history we remember Blanche Stuart Scott, the first American woman to take a solo hop into the air.
Before any of her aviation feats, Scott set out to prove that women were well-equipped to drive automobiles. Scott became the second woman to drive across the United States when she and her passenger Gertrude Buffington Phillips drove from New York to San Francisco from May to July in 1910.
On May 15, 1910 – before she set out on her cross-country journey – Scott told the New York Times, “It is my belief that touring, especially some distance, has never been indulged in by the different lady motorists, largely on account of their extreme modesty or self-depreciation rather than on account of physical unfitness or inability on their part.”
Scott gained recognition and respect for making this cross-country journey. Soon after, Glenn Curtiss, pilot and founder of the Curtiss Aeroplane Company, taught Scott how to fly—the first and only woman Curtiss instructed. By September of the same year, Scott was ready to make her own solo flight. Although there is much debate in the aviation community about whether that first flight was intentional. To prevent her aircraft from gaining enough speed to become airborne while she practiced taxiing on her own, Curtiss inserted a block of wood behind the throttle pedal. Whether the block of wood dislodged or a gust of wind lifted her aircraft, something happened on September 2 that caused Scott to go airborne. Intentional or not, Scott is an important pioneer in aviation.
In October, Scott debuted as a member of the Curtiss exhibition team at a Chicago air meet. She was known for flying upside down and performing “death dives.” In her career, Scott held a number of records including:
- The first woman to fly at a public event.
- The first woman to fly a long distance.
- The first female test pilot.
In 1916, Scott retired from her career as a pilot, citing the public’s fascination with crashes and inequality for women in aviation as reasons for her departure.