Little Bits of History

Challenging Stereotypes

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 8, 2015
Raymonde de Laroche

Raymonde de Laroche

March 8, 1910: Raymonde de Laroche gets a license. Born Elise Raymonde Deroche in Paris in 1882, she was the first woman in the world to get a pilot’s license. Her father was a plumber and she exhibited an interest in sports as a child. As she grew, she developed a liking for speed and took to motorcycles and automobiles. To make a living, she turned to the stage and as an actress changed her name to Raymonde de Laroche. In 1908, she became interested in flight after Wilbur Wright visited Paris. She became acquainted with several pilots including an artist turned aviator, Leon Delagrange, who was said to have been the father of her son, Andre.

Laroche wanted to fly herself and in October 1909 spoke with Charles Voisin. He was a friend, a pilot, and a builder of planes. She asked him to teach her to fly. On October 22, 1909 she was at Chalons, 90 miles outside Paris at the Voisin brothers’ base of operations. The plane only sat one person and so Laroche took the plane up while Charles stood on the ground and yelled instructions up to her. She learned to taxi around the airfield and was finally able to lift off. She flew for about 300 yards. She is sometimes listed as the first woman to fly a heavier-than-air craft, but there are two other contenders who preceded her. P. Van Pottelsberghe and Thérèse Peltier had flown the previous year with Henri Farman and Delagrange respectively. Laroche was flying alone.

Harry Harper wrote decades later about Laroche’s maiden flight. He stated that Charles had strictly forbidden her to fly and she was to simply taxi. However, she took off and flew about ten to fifteen feet high and handled the controls with “cool, quick precision”. Gabriel Voisin also wrote and stated Laroche had mesmerized Charles and he was “entirely under her thumb”. Regardless of how or how much help she got in learning, she did learn to fly the plane and on this date, she was given license #36 from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

Laroche went flying in Heliopolis in Egypt, Saint Petersburg, Budapest, and Rouen with aviation shows. Tsar Nicholas II personally congratulated her and she was introduced to him as “Baroness” de Laroche and the title stuck. In July 1910 she crashed her plane at Reims in France. She suffered severe injuries but did recover and two years later she was fit to fly. On September 26, 1912 she and Charles were in a car crash. He died; she was again severely injured but recovered. On November 25, 1913 she won an award for a 4 hour long-distance flight. During World War I she served as a military chauffer, since flying was too dangerous for women. On July 18, 1919 she went to test pilot a new plane. It is unknown if she was the pilot or co-pilot. On the landing approach, the plane nose dived and killed both aboard. Laroche was 36.

Flying might not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price. – Amelia Earhart

I am an enthusiast, but not a crank in the sense that I have some pet theories as to the proper construction of a flying machine. I wish to avail myself of all that is already known and then, if possible, add my mite to help on the future worker who will attain final success. – Wilbur Wright

In flying, the probability of survival is inversely proportional to the angle of arrival. – Neil Armstrong

As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me. – George Orwell

Also on this day: Galaxies – In 1934, a picture from the Hubble telescope showed galaxies as numerous as the stars in the Milky Way.
Georgia – In 1957, the Georgia Memorial to Congress was adopted.
New York Going to the Dogs – In 1894, the first US pet license law went into effect.
Vietnam – In 1965, 3,500 US Marines were deployed to South Vietnam.
Integrity Protecting the Works of Man – In 1817, the New York Stock Exchange was founded.

3 Responses

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  1. hairballexpress said, on March 8, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Wow- what a story! At least she died doing what she loved!💙

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