During our weekly trivia night at a local bar, a question came up under a Historic Women category and I did not know the answer. I was disappointed that I hadn’t already known Bessie Coleman’s great story, but it also made me reflect on why my #WCW is so important to me. Please keep forwarding amazing stories! I love that the length of my list is outpacing what a weekly submission can keep up with.
In 1921, Bessie Coleman was the first African American and Native American woman to earn a pilot’s license. As you could probably guess, there were no schools for aviation in the US that allowed women or people of color in the early 1900s but Bessie, being the badass that she was, thought to herself “F it, I’ll just straight up learn French and then get my license overseas” AND THAT’S TOTALLY WHAT SHE DID!
After obtaining her license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, Bessie briefly came back to the US before realizing that in order to make a living following her dream (commercial pilots weren’t a thing yet), she would have to get advanced training in order to be a stunt pilot. Being a bona fide trailblazer is tricky enough, even harder when one is a woman and even harder still for a woman of color in a time when segregation was alive and well. Back to Europe she went, completing advanced courses and training with leaders of the aviation industry. “Queen Bess” returned to the US and performed daring displays, hoping to one day earn enough to open her own aviation school. In 1926, Bessie and her mechanic went up for a test flight when the plane malfunctioned, tragically killing them both.