She Was The First African-American Woman And The First Native-American Woman To Earn Her Pilot’s License, And Then She Became A Stunt Pilot

National Air and Space Museum - pictured above is Bessie

Sometimes nothing lifts my spirits more than learning about women who excelled in their careers and defied many odds.

One of those women was Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman as well as the first Native-American woman to earn her pilot’s license.

Bessie was born in January 1892 in Atlanta, Texas. She was born into a family of sharecroppers. As a little girl, she had to walk four miles just to get to school, but she loved it and had exceptional math skills.

When she was 23-years-old, she moved to Chicago, Illinois, to live with some of her brothers. There, she became a manicurist. This was around the time she became interested in becoming a pilot. Once she knew that she wanted to fly planes, nothing would stop her until she was able to do so.

During this time, becoming a female pilot in America was tricky, and it was even trickier for women who weren’t white. Flight schools in America wouldn’t accept women like Bessie.

While struggling to get into flight school in America, Bessie met Robert S. Abbott, the creator and publisher of the Chicago Defender newspaper suggested that she travel abroad to get her pilot’s license, as she’d have an easier time learning there than she would in the U.S.

Taking Robert’s advice, Bessie took French lessons at the Berlitz Language Schools in Chicago and left for France in 1920. She went to the Cauldron Brothers’ School of Aviation and was finally taught how to fly planes.

On June 15th, 1921, Bessie officially became the first African-American woman to earn her pilot’s license. She was a sensation when she moved back to the United States. Bessie’s next career move was to become a stunt pilot.

She returned to Europe for more training so she could perform dangerous and fascinating stunts in planes.

National Air and Space Museum – pictured above is Bessie

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