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Heroines Yesterday, Heroines Today, and Heroines Tomorrow

Heroine Aviators

Bessica Raiche (1875-1932) Pioneer Pilot, Aviation Inventor, Dentist, Doctor

Bessica or Bessie Raiche was an American woman who distinguished herself shortly after the turn of the 20th century in terms of versatility.

She was not only a dentist and a doctor, but is also accredited by the Aeronautical Society as being the first woman to fly an airplane in a solo flight.  She had no flight instruction or experience before taking to the sky alone. Bessie was  a woman before her time who loved to shoot guns and drive fast cars right alongside the boys.

Her and her husband built their airplane in their living room and assembled it in the yard. She flew the biplane in 1910. Bessie would live another 22 years, most of which she devoted to women’s health care as a distinguished specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology in the US.

Bessica Raiche (1875-1932) Pioneer Pilot, Aviation Inventor, Dentist, Doctor

Bessica or Bessie Raiche was an American woman who distinguished herself shortly after the turn of the 20th century in terms of versatility.

She was not only a dentist and a doctor, but is also accredited by the Aeronautical Society as being the first woman to fly an airplane in a solo flight.  She had no flight instruction or experience before taking to the sky alone. Bessie was  a woman before her time who loved to shoot guns and drive fast cars right alongside the boys.

Her and her husband built their airplane in their living room and assembled it in the yard. She flew the biplane in 1910. Bessie would live another 22 years, most of which she devoted to women’s health care as a distinguished specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology in the US.

Heroine Aviators

Aida de Acosta, 1884-1962

Aida de Acosta was an American socialite and the first woman to fly a powered aircraft solo, after just three flight classes.

Aida was born in Long Branch, New Jersey to Ricardo de Acosta, a steamship executive of Cuban descent, and Micaela Hernández de Alba y de Alba, thought to be the descendant of the famous Spanish Alba family, or Dukes of Alba.

When Aida was nineteen, Brazilian pioneer aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont showed her how to operate his personal dirigible, “No. 9”, in Paris. Alberto used to fly his dirigible downtown and leave it on the street outside the restaurant he dined in. Aida few his aircraft solo from Paris to Chateau de Bagatelle, while Alberto followed in his bicycle below, shouting advice up to her. The journey would take around 30 minutes by car now.

Her first flight ended in the polo field at Bagatelle during a match between the American and the British teams at the time. Spectators helped her get out of the basket. After watching some polo with Alberto, Aida climbed back in and few the machine for another 45 minutes back to Neuilly St. James. Alberto never let anyone else fly any of his aircraft, but he did keep a photograph of Aida on his desk next to a vase of fresh flowers for the rest of his life.

Baroness Raymonde de Laroche, 1882-1919

Raymonde de Laroche was a French pilot and the first woman in the world to receive an airplane pilot’s license.

Raymonde was the daughter of a plumber, and was fond of motorcycles, automobiles and planes. She became an actress as a young woman and changed her real name, Elise Raymonde Deroche to Raymonde de Laroche.

Inspired by Wilbur Wright’s 1908 demonstrations of powered flight in Paris, she became determined to take up flying personally.

In 1909, Raymonde asked her friend, aviator and airplane builder Charles Voisin to teach her to fly. And he did. The story goes that they both went to Charles’ brothers’ base of operations at Chalons, 90 miles east of Paris. Because Charles’ aircraft only had one seat, she taxied around the airfield solo while he gave her instructions from the ground. Once she’d mastered maneuvering the plane on the ground, she lifted off and flew 300 yards.

Flight magazine reported that the following day, she circled the flying field twice, and had the machine completely under control. It was this magazine that dubbed her “Baroness”, a title which stuck, despite the fact that she was not of noble birth.

In 1910, Raymonde became the first woman in the world to receive a pilot’s license at the Aero-Club of France from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, and she participated in aviation meetings in France, Egypt, Hungary and Russia, where she was personally congratulated by Tsar Nicholas II.

After two accidents, one in an airplane and the other in a car in which Charles Voisin was killed, Raymonde won the Aero-Club of France’s Femina Cup for a non-stop long-distance flight of over 4 hour duration. She set two women’s records during her life: one for altitude at 15,700 feet and the other for distance, at 201 miles.

Raymonde died in an experimental aircraft when the vessel went into a dive and crashed on its landing approach, killing both her and the co-pilot. Women of Aviation Worldwide Week is celebrated annually during the week including March 8th, which marks the anniversary of Raymonde’s pilot license and International Women’s Day.

Bessica Raiche

Bessica or Bessie Raiche was a dentist, businesswoman, physician and the first woman in the U.S. accredited with flying an airplane solo. She had no flight instruction or experience before taking to the sky alone by the Aeronautical Society of America.

Bessie was a proto-feminist. She wore bloomers, went shooting and drove an automobile. Bessie and her husband built a Wright type biplane in their living room and assembled it in their yard. But they decided to build it with bamboo and silk instead of the heavier canvas used by the Wright brothers. In September, 1910, Bessie flew her homemade flyer at Hempstead Plains, New York during the same month that Blanche Stuart Scott also flew solo, but Bessie’s adventure was better documented.

In October, 1910, a dinner was held in Bessie’s honor by the Aeronautical Society of America, and she was awarded a diamond-studded gold metal inscribed “First Woman Aviator in America” by Hudson Maxim. Her and her husband went on to build two more airplanes as part of the French-American Aeroplane Company, thanks to the fact that her husband’s parents were both from France. They were innovators in the use of light-weight materials in aircraft construction, and even used piano wire to replace iron wire in their planes.

Bessie died of a heart attack in 1932 in her sleep in California, after a successful career as one of the first women specialists in obstetrics and gynecology in the U.S.

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman was an African American civil aviator, and the first African American woman to hold a pilot license. She earned her international pilot license in 1921. She was from a family of sharecroppers in Texas, but was able to studied at a small segregated school and go on to study at Langston University for one term.

Bessie saved up money so she could travel to France become a licensed pilot there. She very quickly became a successful air show pilot in the U.S. and wanted to start a school for African American pilots, but she died in a plane crash in 1926 while testing her new aircraft.