Bessie Coleman was a unique woman. She was born in 1902 in a small town in Texas. She started out as a poor Black woman who picked cotton so her family could survive. It was not long till she became the first black woman pilot. Bessie Coleman, “Queen Bess,” was the first black woman pilot.There were many hurdles that she had to overcome before she was able to get her license. In the 1920’s there were no pilots that would train a black person. Bessie was not only black but a woman. Men thought that women sure didn’t belong in a plane. There were many hurdles that she had to overcome before she was able to get her license. In the 1920’s there were no pilots that would train a black person…especially a woman.
Bessie was fortunate to meet Robert Abbott, the founder of the Chicago Defender newspaper. Bessie told him that she wanted to be a pilot but no one would teach her how to fly. Mr. Abbott suggested she go to France where race didn’t matter like it did in the U.S. Bessie even learned that there was an American black man named Eugene Bullard that learned to fly in France. There was even a French woman named Raymonde de Laroche that also was a pilot. Bessie was so excited. Maybe, she could learn to fly too.
She went to France received her licence. When she returned to America , she was hailed as a hero. Imagine, poor Bessie became the first black woman pilot. Bessie wanted to give back to other women to encourage them to reach for the stars. She decided to start a school where she could train women to fly.
Public library in Chicago named after Bessie
Memorial plaque placed at Chicago Cultural Center
Flowers dropped during flyovers at her grave site in Lincoln Cemetery near Chicago
Bessie Coleman Drive near O’hare Airport
Bessie scholarship awards to high school students that wanted to learn to fly
Stamp issued in her honor in 1995
2006 inducted in the Aviation Hall of Fame
Bessie never realized her dream to open flying school but she did receive many honors. In 1926 she was killed in a plane crash in Florida. Her memorial service was attended by 5,000 people. All over the world people were devastated by the news that their “Queen Bess” had died.
In 1930 the Bessie Coleman Aero Club was formed to honor her. In the coming years Bessie inspired many black women to reach for the stars.
Today there are few women pilots and fewer black women that are pilots but those numbers are increasing. This is due to Bessie Coleman blazing the path for future pilots.The organization. Women in Aviation International (www.wai.org) is very supportive of women in every area of aviation. I urge women to join this fine group of strong women. Another place to support is the International Women’s Air and Space Museum in Cleveland.(iwasm.org) I had the pleasure of visiting this museum. Tour the museum and look at the past and present of Women in Aviation.
I want to encourage women fly like an eagle and realize your dreams. Don’t let anything stop you.