Aviatrix Names: Flying high with the names of pioneer pilots

Everyone knows the name of Amelia Earhart, but how many others do we know of the equally daring female pilots—then called aviatrixes– who made their mark during the early days of flying?

In the wild and wooly barnstorming, daredevil days of aviation from its beginnings to World War II, there were few occupations outside the home open to women other than teaching, nursing and secretarying.  That’s when a group of adventurous females—some of them girls still in their teens– took to the skies, risking their lives flying flimsy wooden aircraft in open cockpits.  Often disparaged and mocked by the male pilots, there was both  camaraderie and competitiveness among these flygirls as records for speed, distance and altitude were swiftly set and broken, and there was a constant succession of ‘firsts’.

Here are their names, some common and some unusual, any of which would make an admirable namesake. (btw, some of these ‘first’ claims might appear to be contradictory).

ADRIENNE Bolland, a Frenchwoman who was the first to fly across the treacherous Andes mountains.

ALYS McKey Bryant,  the first woman to fly in Canada.

AMELIA Earhart, the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air, making the fastest crossing on record in 1932 (for the rest, see the movie).

AMELIE (called Melli) Hedwig Boutard-Bess was an early German female aviator.

AMY Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.

ANESIA Pinkeiro Machado was Brazil’s first female pilot.

ANNE Morrow Lindbergh, the first woman to earn a glider pilot license, in 1930, accompanied husband Charles on many flights.

BERYL Markham was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.

BESSICA Medlar Raiche constructed a biplane in her living room and made her first solo flight in 1910.

BESSIE Coleman was the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license (when she wasn’t permitted to attend an American flight school, she went to France to get it there).

BLANCHE Scott was the first American woman to solo in a primitive airplane in 1910, although her flight is not always considered official.  She was known as “Tomboy of the Air.”

ELINOR Smith, who died last week at 98, became interested in flying at the age of 8. Received her pilot’s license at 16, was soon breaking records, doing daredevil stunts and making headlines as “The Flying Flapper of Freeport.”

ELISE Deroche, a Frenchwoman, was the first woman in the world to obtain a pilot’s license in 1910.

ELLY BEINHORN was acclaimed for her solo flights across every continent.

EVELYNBOBBI Trout, with Elinor Smith, became well known for establishing an endurance record, being the first woman to refuel a plane in mid-air , and in 1929 set the first women’s record for an all night-flight.

FLORENCEPanchoBarnes was the first female Hollywood stunt pilot, beginning with  the film Hell’s Angels.

HANNA Reitsch was the first woman to fly a helicopter.

HARRIET Quimby became the first licensed woman pilot in the U.S., the first to fly at night and the first woman to pilot her own plane across the English Channel.

HELEN Ritchie was the first woman pilot hired by a regularly scheduled airline.

HÉLÈNE Dutrieu, Belgium’s first licensed woman pilot, was called the “Girl Hawk”.

HILDE Hewlett was the first Englishwoman to earn her flying license.

JACQUELINE Cochran set a new women’s altitude record, and a new international women’s speed record in 1939, then in 1941 was the first woman to fly a war plane across the Atlantic.

KATHERINE Stinson was a stunt flyer who performed for Liberty Bonds and the Red Cross and as a good will ambassador to China.

E. LILLIAN Todd was the first woman to design and build an airplane (which unfortunately never flew).

LOUISE McPhetridge Thaden held speed, endurance and altitude records for women fliers; Louise Bastie, known as MARYSE, flew further in a non-stop run than any other woman, and further nonstop in a light plane than anyone of either gender.

MARGA von Etzdorf, the first German woman to become licensed for commercial, glider, sports and stunt flying in 1927.

MARJORIE Stinson, sister of Katherine, was a legendary flight instructor; she was the youngest of the pioneers to earn her license, at the age of 18, in 1914 and the first female airline pilot.

MARVEL Crosson was Alaska’s first woman pilot, setting a new altitude record for women.

MATILDE Moisant became the second licensed woman pilot in the US, and the first to fly the English Channel (a feat considered so impossible for a female that a male pilot offered to wear her purple silk outfit and impersonate her).

MILLICENT Bryant was Australia’s first woman pilot.

NETA Snook Southern, a pioneer aviator with a long list of firsts, including running her own aviation business and commercial airfield.

PHOEBE Omlie, one of the greatest barnstormers of the post-World War I era, was the first woman to hold a government post in the field of aviation.

RAYMONDE de la Roche received the first pilot’s license issued to a woman in 1910.  When she attempted to become the first female test pilot, her plane went into a dive and she was killed.  There’s a statue of her at Le Bourget airport in France.

RUTH Law set two cross-country flying records, later formed a flying circus and was a successful barnstormer.  Ruth Nichols, nicknamed the “Flying Debutante,” was the only woman to hold simultaneous records for speed, altitude and distance.

THEA Rasche, a noted German aviator who was famous for her aerobatic stunts.

THERESE Peltier was the first woman to fly an airplane solo in 1910.

WILLA BROWN was the first African American  female to earn a pilot’s and a commercial license in America .

Follow nameberry on twitter!

Become a fan on facebook!

Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required


10 Responses to “Aviatrix Names: Flying high with the names of pioneer pilots”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

April 8th, 2010 at 7:47 am

What a fabulous list! Wouldn’t it be nice to see Blanche and Beryl make a comeback?

cabybake Says:

April 8th, 2010 at 9:43 am

This list was great and it was something I was looking for a few months back (before I found out I’m having a boy.) My husband is an aviation nut and I wanted to honor the aviatrixes if I had a second daughter. Amelia was on my list and Elinor was, too, but I didn’t know of Elinor Smith. Thank you.

peach Says:

April 10th, 2010 at 2:08 am

There are some great names on this list! I have loved Beryl for quite a while now but I don’t find many other fans 🙁
Also, Alys, Amelie, Anne, Hanna, Helene, Maryse, Matilde, Phoebe & Therese.

www.legitbabenames.wordpress.com Says:

April 12th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Bessica really intrigues me. She was obviously born long before the outrageous popularity of Jessica. I wonder where her parents thought it up. Cool post.

www.legitbabenames.wordpress.com Says:

April 12th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Hey Peach. I am a Beryl fan. Always have been 😉

John Says:

April 26th, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Great blog. Very well written. I came across you because I am researching the aviatrices. Would you please share with me the source of your photograph? I also have some additional questions; please respond. Thanks!

linda Says:

April 27th, 2010 at 1:05 am

The photograph came from google images.

John Says:

May 6th, 2010 at 12:17 am

Thanks, Linda. I am preparing a proposal for a museum exhibition about the aviatrixes, and have struggled with a title. With your permission, I would like to adapt your blog title for this purpose as follows: “AVIATRIX: Flying high with the pioneer pilots.” The title would be footnoted in the proposal as follows: “The title of this exhibition is adapted from the title of a blog on the baby name website Nameberry.com, at http://nameberry.com/blog/2010/04/08/aviatrix-names-flying-high-with-the-names-of-pioneer-pilots. Used by permission of the author, Linda _____.” If this is acceptable to you, please let me have your last name so that I may give you proper credit. I must turn the proposal in at the end of business this coming Friday. Thank you for considering this request.

Ulysses Aldridge Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 1:43 am

Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the tremendous lucidity in your writing. I will right away grab your rss feed to stay abreast of any updates.

teresaokane Says:

April 22nd, 2015 at 4:34 pm

You left out a famous aviatrix! Eve Jackson was the first person to fly a microlight from England to Australia. She also hold the world record for altitude in a microlight when she and Mark Jackson flew over Kilimanjaro.
Plus, Eve is a lovely name 🙂

leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.