Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Before Amelia Earhart

Baroness de la Roche, early aviatrix from an article in 1910 Technical World Magazine.

I'm interrupting my posts on the TITANIC to bring you some info about early aviation. You see, Hillary Clinton's State Department is helping to launch a new inquiry in the 1937 disappearance of aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

It's a breaking news story.

Researching my story Threshold Girl I learned a lot about early aviation. One point of especial interest: in the early days of aviation it wasn't necessarily considered a man thing to do. Well, no more than anything else.

Remember, 1910 was the age of the New Woman and the magazines and newspapers liked to play up the 'new freedoms' of women, especially young women.

It was only after WWI that flying was considered probably too dangerous for women.

Here's a retro spread from a 1937 Marie-Claire showing aviation dress in the period.


According to the copy on this page, in the first days of flying, women just gathered up their skirts and hopped into the plane. Then they decided more coverage (of a decidedly unfeminine kind) was necessary.

My Transportation Page on Tighsolas has a lot about aviation, including an article where Alexander Graham Bell claims flying is too dangerous.

And a story about Women and the Motor car. Yes, women can drive. It's by Dorothy Levitt a female race car driver.

And an article called Speed Madnessabout the Titanic's sinking.

One has to imagine that the amazing, almost daily advances in aeroplane and automobile technology, that allowed them to go farther faster, in leaps and bounds,  is one reason the Titanic sank. Boats were an old technology and they wanted to appear 'sexy' as compared to the new.

Here's an excerpt from the article Flight School from 1910 Technical World. Women were signing up in droves to learn to fly the article said.


If you would learn to fly, first master the art of propelling a bicycle. The would be aviator must be possessed of a keen sense of equilibrium; he must know how to balance himself as he would were he riding a bicycle or some other vehicle whose successful operations was dependent on perfect poise of the rider.

At the Wright School of Aviation at Dayton, Ohio, established and maintained by the famous brothers, this principle is one of the fundamental precepts. Let the aviator budge from the space prescribed for his personal comfort while soaring aloft and the smooth operation of the craft is at once retarded. If he moves a few inches from his seat in any direction, the chance of an accident is increased tenfold. The ship may turn a somersault and tumble to earth. 

Another requisite that looms large is courage. If any mishap befalls the aeroplane while he is spinning through the air, unless the operator have an abundance of nerve, he is more than likely to destroy the poise of the car and cause a swift descent. An intimate knowledge of mechanics is not a requirement. A pupil may learn in a few days enough of the mechanism of a machine to operate an aeroplane with success. 

Aviation pupils possess one large advantage over students of other institutions in that in a few weeks and rarely longer than a few months, of study, they are prepared to earn money for themselves for exhibition flights. Before learning how to fly, it is advisable, and almost necessary to learn how to glide.

Anyway, I have no reference to aeroplanes in Threshold Girl  - although many references to the automobile. But maybe I'll put one in my follow up story, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster. Maybe Edith Nicholson, the protagonist, will see an aeroplane buzzing around the sky in her opium haze on the day the King Dies.

There was an airshow in St. Hubert in that year or around. I found a lovely painting of it.