Category Archives: Role of Women

A Modern Day Lady Pioneer in Aviation ~ Tracey Curtis Taylor ~ Cape Town to Goodwood Winter 2013

An article in the newspaper over the weekend caught my eye of Tracey Curtis Taylor who flew a 1940’s bi-plane from Cape Town to Cairo. She had been inspired by the record breaking flight of Mary Heath back in 1928; nearly 90 years on and yet the feat seems equally astonishing.


Curtis Taylor began learning to fly aged 16 years, and became a flying instructor. On moving to New Zealand from Canada, where she grew up, she became fascinated by vintage planes and, like myself, began to research the early pioneers and Lady Heath became her heroine.


Curtis Taylor had a plane restored to her specification including a GPS system; a 1942 Boeng Stearman in racing green with a top speed of 95mph, which she believed suitable for the demands of intense heat in Africa. Gaining sponsorship from Artemis Investments she named her plane ‘Spirit of Artemis.’


Setting off on November 2nd 2013 she flew from Cape Town, over Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Egypt, finally landing at Goodwood in West Sussex on New Year’s Eve. She felt the spirit of Mary Heath with her many times during the flight, notably swooping over the dispersing wild animals in Kenya and the Victoria Falls in Tanzania, for which she was reprimanded. Although officialdom caused many headaches, which seems no surprise considering the list of countries she crossed, it was the storms she faced on her return to Europe and was heading for the Britain that was her final nightmare. Nevertheless she was welcomed enthusiastically by family and friends in the country where she was born, Britain.


As in all my aviation biographies, Tracey Curtis Taylor is no exception. There is more to the lady than someone who loves the excitement of flight, overcoming all obstacles to reach her ambitions. So inspired was she by women she met in Africa, the way they worked and the conditions they endured, that she hopes to return to the Lewa Reserve in Kenya to do a documentary about them.

I’m sure there’ll be a book to look forward to in the future.

My next post will be about Lady Mary Heath and her flight back in 1928.

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Filed under Early Flight, Role of Women

Raymonde de Laroche ~25th November 1913

431px-Raymonde_de_LaRoche_HeadTo add to my recent posts about early female aviators I must mention this French lady:

Raymonde de Laroche 1886 -1919

Background and Inspiration to Fly

Raymonde always enjoyed sport and motorcycles but was inspired to learn to fly after watching Wilber Wright’s flight demonstrations in Paris in 1908. In 1909, under the instruction of Charles Voisin a personal friend, she took off for the first time. I like the story that she disobeyed his orders not to take off on that first occasion. Whatever the truth she was certainly a headstrong and determined young lady.

Her achievements

She gained her pilot’s licence in March 1910 and as many aviators of her time took part in meets and shows. Although injured in September 1912 at the Reims Air Show and a subsequent car crash, she recovered fully and won the Femina Cup after a four hour, non stop long distance flight on 25th November 1913.

In WW1 she served as a chauffeur and engineer, confidently driving officers too and from the front.

Notable Difference

Although of humble birth, the daughter of a plumber, she called herself Baroness, but after the war in 1919 she hoped to become the first female test pilot in Le Crotoy. Unfortunately the plane she was in crash landed and she was killed.

If you are interested in early female aviators I have done a series for this blog but here are some other links:

Mother Nature Network – 8 Famous Female Aviators

Women of Aviation Worldwide Week in March

NB I was interested to see Harry Harper, the Aviation reporter of the Daily Mail at that time, writing about Raymone. I was so intrigued by Harry’s name appearing so many times whilst I was researching for my novel Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home that he became a character in my novel and he is a man I intend to research in the future.



Filed under Early Flight, Frivolous Flying Facts, Research, Role of Women, The Great War, WW1

Amazing Female Aviators in the Early 20th Century ~ Hilda Beatrice Hewlett

Hilda Hewlett is my favourite of the early 20th Century aviators I discovered whilst researching, not only because she was English but I was also surprised to find out that she opened a factory making planes for the war effort (WW1) near to where I live in Leagrave, Bedfordshire.

When I have time I hope to research Hilda’s story in more depth and I will share it with you but here’s her story in brief:

Hilda Beatrice Hewlett 1864 – 1943

Background and inspiration to fly ~ Born into a wealthy but large family, she was educated at Kensington Art School in wood carving, metalwork and sewing, all skills she used later in life. She married Maurice Hewlett, a successful novelist and poet, and through him Hilda became interested in motorcars, becoming a passenger and mechanic to a female racing driver, Miss Hind.

In 1909 she became a friend of an engineer Gustave Blondeau, through whom she gained an interested in aviation and began to save up to buy an aeroplane. She travelled to France where she worked alongside the men building her aeroplane, where she called herself Mrs Grace Bird.

Aviation achievements ~ They returned with the aeroplane, called The Blue Bird, and set up a flying school at Brooklands where Hilda learned to fly. At 47 years old Hilda is the first English woman to gain a pilot’s licence in 1911. Alongside their flying school, where incidentally Tommy Sopwith also learnt to fly, they began making aeroplanes.

Notable difference ~ In 1912 she moved to Leagrave in Bedfordshire where she set up her own aeroplane factory where women were trained to build planes for The Great War. By 1918 they employed 300 men and 300 women. (Even her sewing skills came into use here in sewing the fabric on the wings of the planes.) Later, she was the first woman passenger to make the 11 day through flight from England and New Zealand and she was also involved in a commercial airline.

Death ~ Hilda Hewlett died at 79yrs.

If you know of any other early female pioneers in flying then please drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you or write me an email


Filed under Early Flight, Frivolous Flying Facts, Research, Role of Women, The Great War, WW1