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Meet Harriet Quimby, the Groundbreaking Aviatrix Who Was Completely Overshadowed by the Titanic Sinking

Clever Girl

In the chilly April of 1912, a major story was spread across the world’s newspapers concerning a groundbreaking vessel of transportation. We know exactly what story you’re thinking about: aviator Harriet Quimby, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the English Channel! That happened on April 16, 1912. Then there was that other thing that happened the day before. On April 15, 1912. Oh, right … the sinking of the RMS Titanic. That story about a groundbreaking vessel of transportation. Well, we’re coming up on the centennial of Quimby’s solo flight, and some are worried that the aviator will once again be completely forgotten while everyone else is watching specials on the “unsinkable ship” on the Discovery Channel or seeing Titanic in 3D. However, efforts are being made to prevent that from happening, and if they’re successful, then we’ll all know a lot more about her!

On that fateful day 100 years ago, Quimby boarded a plane in Dover, England and flew, in 59 minutes time, across the English Channel to land near Boulogne Sur Mer in France. She was the first woman do achieve that on a solo flight, and this was just one of her most monumental successes. Just the preceding year, she became the first woman to obtain a pilot’s license in the United States after receiving her pilot’s certificate by the Aero Club of America. And in between all the historic flights she made, she wrote screenplays that went on to be produced by D.W. Griffith. (She even acted in one of them, in a small role.) Sadly, just two months after she made her flight across the English Channel, Quimby was killed in a plane crash when she was just 37.

Even more sad, hardly anyone even knew about her solo flight because of the Titanic tragedy hogging up all the press. Because, well, over 1,500 people died on what was supposed to be an “unsinkable ship.” It makes sense — but it’s still a bit of a bummer. Especially since Louis Bleriot was globally celebrated for being the first person ever to fly solo across the English Channel.

All this, and we still haven’t seen a biopic? Or a major book? Or even a monument? The Harriet Quimby Centenary Project is going to do something about that, but they are seeking some help. While they have received some funding from the Kent City Council and the Lottery Heritage Fund, the Project is still seeking outside help so it can build a monument to Quimby in Dover. In addition to the monument — “made of stainless steel and standing at 2.7m high, to grace the cliffs above the Eastern Docks at Dover, to catch and reflect the rising and setting sun” — they seek to use the funds for an informational web site and DVD about Quimby and her life, as well as her Bleriot XI and Dover’s historical place in the field of aviation.

If they can raise the money, the Project hopes to have it all completed by this April for the weekend of the centennial anniversary. (Ironically, that weekend is the 14th and 15th of April, the same dates that the Titanic left port and then sunk. But anyway …) Their celebration is set to include a mannequin or model wearing Quimby’s trademark purple flight suit, a full-size Bleriot XI and a scale model of the plane to be donated to the Dover Museum. The people behind the Project have approached lots of top moneymakers (including Virgin CEO Richard Branson), but still haven’t reached their fundraising goal.

Guys, this has to happen. Surely there is some celebrity who wants to play the screenwriting aviatrix and would be willing to donate some of their cash towards this cause. Pony up, Hollywood!

(via Flight Blog)

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