Tag Archives: 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 ~ Harriet Quimby 1875-1912

Whilst researching for ‘Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home’ I read a great deal about early aviators and was exciteded to read about Harriet Quimby, even though it had nothing to do with my novel. Anyone writing a novel knows how easy it is to get sidetracked and it led to me finding out about other female pioneers in aviation. After all, everyone has heard of Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhart from the 1930’s, but I was surprised to discover many women whose endeavours matched those male counterparts of their era as far back as 1910! Their daring to venture in what was seen as a man’s world accomplished much more than their achievements in flying alone, although these were certainly remarkable. They also designed clothes, opened factories, begun flying schools and fought prejudice at many levels. They were not, as I had imagined, all rich young ladies with plenty of time on their hands, but women who dared to be different.

I’d like to share this in posts over the next couple of weeks. If you enjoy my posts then please let your friends know and share it on twitter and facebook.

Harriet Quimby 1875 – 1912 ‘The Green Eyed Beauty’

Background and inspiration to fly ~ Harriet Quimby came from a poor American family, but by working herself up from journalism and theatrical writing she became a competent and successful screenwriter for the silent movies of her time. It was after attending the Belmont Park Air Tournament on Long Island that she decided she must learn to fly.

Aviation achievements ~ In 1911 she gained her pilots licence and became the first female American to gain an Aero Club of America Certificate. As many pilots of her day, Harriet gained experience and a way to fund her ambitions by participating in several air shows, but her main achievement was in April 1912 to be the first woman pilot to fly across the English Channel.

Death ~ Unfortunately she met her early death as a passenger in a two-seater Bleriot, only three months later in July 1912.

Notable difference ~ Harriet was also noted for her beauty and her dignified manner, but her other notable legacy was that she designed a suitable style of dress for women pilots of her day. She was known for her purple satin one piece flight suit which converted into pants (trousers) when flying but to a skirt when out of the aeroplane so that she did not offend the dress expectations of her era.

Harriet Quimby certainly moved the women’s movement forward in her own way and her fashion sense would amuse and please a friend of mine I visited recently who still keeps up to date with what is fashionable.

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Filed under Early Flight, Frivolous Flying Facts, Research, Role of Women

Muse on Feminine Issues in Ancasta

You may be forgiven for thinking from reading my blog posts, that my novel Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home is all about flying boats, the Hampshire Regiment, Palmerstone Forts and the Schneider Trophy. Yes they do feature, threaded through my story, but Ancasta addresses huge feminine issues of the time too.

Ancasta is actually a multi layered story of love and resilience, stressing the fortitude of women to adapt and sometimes take over men’s roles; in fact it is a story of how, with determination and strength of character women showed their worth at the time of World War 1 in a way rarely seen before, in British culture certainly.

My husband has gone to watch Speedway tonight and though I have promised to go with him once a year, an evening standing in a cold draft, watching little bikes race around a track is not my idea of fun on a Saturday night. Each to his or her own. This made me wonder why I have focussed on perceived to be masculine interests when promoting my new novel. (please forgive me if I’m being sexist or perpetuating stereotypes)

If someone had told me ten years ago that I would be reading non fiction on the Schneider Trophy and the Spitfire,  taking a lesson in fishing and getting excited on numerous air days, I would have laughed but I think it is because they are areas I really have had to work hard on, in order to research them thoroughly, so that I’ve become so absorbed.

I can only liken it to reading Shakespeare when I was about 14 yrs old. At first I didn’t really want to read it or try to understand it. I enjoyed going to see Romeo and Juliet at 15 and watching A Mid Summer Night’s Dream in Regent’s Park is still etched on my memory, but then I was lucky to have an inspiring teacher, Mrs Yates. It was she who made me look more carefully at the language and start to appreciate the beauty of it, but even now I admit to finding the Henry’s and Richard’s a bit challenging.

It’s the same with my research. It is meeting people who are fascinated by their subject, reading anecdotes and amusing stories as well as facts and experiencing live performances in places like Shuttleworth, which has made the subjects come alive for me, and also learning more about my family links with Supermarine.

So turning back to the women; I was inspired initially by my great grandmother who set up a guest house in Woolston and by reading about the magnitude of The Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley, not so long after Florence Nightingale opened the way for women nurses to travel the world. (In fact Florence was quite rude about the ‘magnificent’ hospital on the banks of Southampton Water)

We all know that women did a great deal of the work when their menfolk went off to war but what sort of work? I was particularly interested to note down any details and here are two examples.

I was talking to one of the mechanics in the Shuttleworth Air Museum in Biggleswade. (the chap turned out to be from the island of Sark, which was also a coincidence) I asked him about the wings of the aircraft and what they were made of and he explained how each aeroplane design had a unique pattern in the frayed fabric on the wings, and it was the women who stitched them so carefully during the war. This made sense to me but I was even more pleased to read in a book in the Bitterne Heritage Centre that some women were also taught to do the welding at Supermarine.

My women characters are strong. They have to be. Even before the war the reader will be aware of the tensions building up of the need for women to express themselves and for their opinions to count. As war progresses the women have no choice but to change, to run the home or a business, to work in a factory or become a nurse here in England, or in far distant places. The balance of relationships and responsibilities changes; it is tipped over and never really sees the same level again.

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Filed under Research, Role of Women, Supermarine