Blanche Stuart Scott, a pioneering aviator of indomitable spirit of adventure, became the first woman to drive across the United States and the first woman to fly in America.
When she accomplished her transcontinental auto trip, there were only 218 miles of paved roads outside of cities. The publicity led to a contract for her to learn to fly with the newly created Glenn Curtiss Exhibition Company. In August and September of 1910, she took to the air in Hammondsport, NY. On October 23, 1910, she made her first public flight and the first professional appearance of a woman aviator in the country at Fort Wayne, IN.
In those years, there was no formal training for aviators and discrimination against women was widespread. She virtually had to teach herself in dangerous and unstable aircraft, and had no career path to look forward to in the industry or the military. Yet, she launched herself into a career of firsts in fields that were completely male-dominated, new and dangerous. Most of her contemporaries felt that “if God had wanted a woman to fly, He would have given her wings.” It was 1910, women couldn’t vote and society still believed woman’s place was in the home.
Blanche Stuart Scott’s life spanned the era when airplanes were just being invented and given trials, to the moment she saw Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon. She set a long distance flying record for women of 10 miles on July 30, 1911 and then a 25-mile record in August 1911. She performed the lead role in the first movie made about flying, The Aviator’s Bride.
In 1912, she joined aviator and designer Glenn Martin and as a Martin employee became the first woman test pilot in America. She participated in many exhibitions in the west as the headliner and became the nation’s first woman stunt pilot, the “Tomboy of the Air.” Accidents and fatalities were frequent in aviation’s early years and Scott suffered an accident in 1913 that caused serious injury. It took her a year to recover. She made few flights after that and retired from active flying in 1916.
Her subsequent career included screenwriting and many years as a radio personality, but her passionate interest in flying never abated. In September 1948, she became the first woman passenger to ride in a jet plane. The Aeronautics Association of the United States honored her in 1953. In 1954, Scott became a consultant to the United States Air Force Museum and is credited with helping the institution acquire more than $1,000,000 worth of early aviation artifacts. On the 50th anniversary of her first flight, she was honored by the Antique Airplane Association. The U.S. Postal Service honored her with a commemorative stamp in 1980.