harriet quimby: the purple aviatrix    We all know about pilot Amelia Earhart’s life. Some people win history’s fame and glory while others become invisible in its mist. We want to bring another woman pilot from out of that mist. The first woman to qualify as a pilot in the US. Harriet Quimby was also a photographer, writer, traveller and fashion desig- ner. She lived in the bohemian San Francisco of the day and was part of a group of friends which included Ambrose Bierce and Jack London. Work as a journalist took her to New York in 1903. It there that she started to publish reports and photos about the journeys she went on around the world. When film maker D.W. Griffith saw how talented she was, he asked her to write the scripts for various short films. Until when, at an air display on Long Island in 1910, she decided that she wanted to be a pilot.

As the Wright brothers didn’t take women at their school, she got her pilot’s certificate at the Moisant Aviation School in 1911. As we’ve said, she was the first woman to qualify and the 37th person to do so. As if that weren’t enough, she designed a special purple suit to fly in with left people open-mouthed. In April, 1912 she flew across the English Channel in a Bleriot: it was the very next day after the Titanic had sunk. Hardly anybody noticed her feat. A few months later, while she was taking part in an air show at Boston, her Bleriot started to make strange movements and Harriet, all dressed in purple, fell out of her plane. She was 37 when she died and her death rendered aviation a last service: from then on pilots had to wear seatbelts in their cabins.