Amelia Earhart and Bessie Coleman are household names of pioneering women aviators, but there were plenty of other women taking to the sky. What are some of the stories of early women aviators you might not know?  

Meet two other women of early aviation: Alys McKey Bryant and Bernetta Miller.

Alys McKey Bryant 
Bryant was the first woman to fly in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, and in Canada. (National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, NASM-9A18389)

Alys McKey Bryant began taking flying lessons in the summer of 1912 in a Curtiss biplane after answering an ad stating "Wanted: young lady to learn to fly for exhibition purposes." She was interviewed and hired by Fred Bennett and his pilot, John Bryant, of the Bennett Aero Company of Palms, California. She flew her first exhibition flight at North Yakima, Washington, on May 3, 1913. Bryant was the first woman to fly in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, and in Canada, where she performed for the Prince of Wales and Duke of York. In Seattle, she set a new women's altitude record of 2,900 feet (884 meters).

Following the death of her husband in August of 1913, she stopped flying. She later returned to do a few movie flights in Seattle and then permanently retired. 

Bernetta Miller
Benetta Miller became the first person to demonstrate a monoplane before U.S. government officials. (National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, SI-86-6344)

Bernetta Miller was born in Canton, Ohio, on January 11, 1886. After becoming interested in flying, she enrolled for instruction at the Moisant Flying School at Hempstead Plains, Long Island, New York. On September 25, 1912, she received her license and then joined the Moisant International Aviators. In October 1912, she was sent to College Park, Maryland, with the Moisant aviator Harold Kantner to assist in demonstration tests. There she became the first person to demonstrate a monoplane before United States government officials. On January 20, 1913, she attempted to establish a women's altitude record at Garden City but the oil flow indicator in her plane broke, causing an emergency landing.

Miller also took an active part in World War I, joining the Women's Overseas Service League Infantry Division in France. She served first as an accountant and then went to the front as a canteen worker. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre and many American citations for her work. After World War I, she engaged in educational work on the staff of Dickinson and Colby Colleges and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University.


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. 

Related Topics Aviation Early flight People Women
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