Katherine Stinson was the fourth woman in the U.S. to obtain a pilot's license. She initially intended to earn money from exhibition flying to finance her music education, however she enjoyed flying so much that she abandoned her piano career and pursued aviation instead. Stinson received her license on July 24, 1912, and one year later she began her exhibition career in Cincinnati, Ohio, flying a Wright B.
Encouraged by her sister Katherine's success, Marjorie Stinson decided to learn to fly in June of 1914. With her mother's permission at the age of 18 she enrolled in the Wright School at Dayton, soloed on August 4, and received her license on August 12.
Here’s five facts you should know about the remarkable sisters:
On July 18, 1915, at Cicero Field in Chicago, Katherine Stinson became the first woman to perform a loop, and she made several endurance record flights.
Marjorie set records of her own. In 1915, she was the first woman to be inducted into the U.S. Aviation Reserve Corps.
Delivering the Mail ... and Not
Katherine was also the first woman authorized to carry U.S. mail, first flying between New York City and Chicago. However, her sister Marjorie was unsuccessful in her attempt to establish an airmail route in Texas.
The Stinson family established their own flight school in San Antonio, Texas. Both Stinson sisters were instructors, their brother Edward acted as chief mechanic, and their mother, Emma Beaver Stinson, became the business manager.
Helping the War Effort
The entire Stinson family lent their talents to help the war effort during World War I. In 1916, with the war in Europe raging, the Royal Canadian Flying Corps began sending their cadets to the Stinson School for training. Marjorie Stinson became known as "The Flying Schoolmarm" and her students as "The Texas Escadrille."
Katherine flew a Curtiss JN-4D Jenny for fundraising tours for the Red Cross during World War I. She went on to drive an ambulance in Europe near the end of the war, where she contracted influenza which ended her aviation career.
Continuing to Work with the Military
After the war, the Stinson’s flying school closed, but Marjorie continued to work with the military. She became a draftsman with the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Navy.
This content was migrated from an earlier online exhibit, Women in Aviation and Space History, which shared the stories of the women featured in the Museum in early 2000s.