1917: Aviatrix Katherine Stinson

From a 1917 issue of The American Magazine:

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A Woman Who Teaches Men How to Fly

When the science of aviation began to make people sit up and take notice, the anti-suffragists rubbed their hands in glee.

“Here is one thing that women cannot do,” they said; “women are too temperamental, too erratic, for aviation.”

But their glee soon vanished. More than one hundred of the aviators flying for England were taught and trained in the United States at the “Stinson School of Flying” at San Antonio, Texas. And the “Stinson School of Flying” is a girl! And the girl is one of the most remarkable aviators in the world! And she is only twenty years old!

Katherine Stinson began aviating four years ago. At that time she was only sixteen years old and weighed less than one hundred pounds. When she presented herself as a student at an aviation school, the instructors there refused to be annoyed by her. “Go back to your mother,” they told her; “she probably doesn’t know you’re away from the house, and if you hurry back before she finds it out you’ll escape that spanking.”

That was in the days when you were almost as safe in an aeroplane as you’d be in the first trenches in Europe. Every two or three days the newspapers would print the picture of “The late Mr. So-and-so, who fell yesterday while flying.” The instructors did not believe an aviation field was the place for a lady, and did not hesitate to tell Miss Stinson so; but she, in turn, was just as firm in her convictions. She became a student, and in two months she had qualified for her pilot’s license.

At first she, as well as every other aviator in the country, was content to do ordinary flying. Then, one day, creeping cable-wise over the oozy ocean bed, came the astounding tidings that Pegoud, a French aviator, had looped the loop in an aeroplane. And not only that, but had flown upside down! The world was shocked! “It can’t be done,” said the wiseacres; “don’t you see, if an aeroplane turned upside down it would fall. Of course it would! Therefore, it can’t be done.”

And the next day Lincoln Beachey went out and looped the loop. And then he did it again. And then he looped fourteen loops in quick succession. And then he flew upside down for a mile. After that he laid off a while “to let the class catch up.”

He did not have to wait long. Soon after Pegoud’s feat, Miss Stinson did a loop all of her own. Since then she has looped more than one thousand loops. And every day she adds a few more to her string.

When Miss Stinson was asked if she was afraid she might fall, she replied that sneezing was the only thing she feared. She declares that nine tenths of the accidents in the air are caused by aviators losing control of their machines while sneezing.

“The aviator,” says Miss Stinson, “passes through numerous strata of air of different temperatures. He often catches cold and sneezes violently. When you sneeze, for the moment you lose all control of yourself. If you do that while in the air, your friends are going to gather up your remains.”

In Miss Stinson’s flying school at San Antonio, hundreds of students are being trained. She goes up in the machine with each student, and shows what should be done. This is most dangerous work, but Miss Stinson thrives on it.

She has duplicated every stunt in the air that a man has ever done. She has flown upside down numerous times. She has looped the loop and spiraled unnumbered spirals. She has dived and dropped, and flown by night.

And despite her nerve-racking experiences, she has a sense of humor, for, when I asked her to what she attributed her success, she said, with a twinkle in her eye:

“Why, I never fell down on my job.”

— J. P. M’evoy

Additional:

Katherine Stinson at Wikipedia

Original page image (two partial pages combined into one):

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