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Fearless Females

Posted by Alissa Kloet on

Portraits of Bessie Coleman and Isabella Bird.

Happy International Women’s Day! Today we are highlighting two historical ladies who thrived on adventure and being outdoors. They contributed to wilderness exploration, conservation and fought against gender and racial stereotypes. We believe these women are inspiring role models for strong, brave girls. Let’s dig in!

Bessie Coleman standing on the wing of her plane.

“The air is the only place free from prejudices.” 

Bessie Coleman
Pilot
1892-1926

Bessie Coleman was born in Texas in 1892 to share croppers. In 1921 she was the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license.  A lesser known fact is that her father was mostly Cherokee also making her the first person of known Indigenous descent to become a pilot.

Coleman’s interest in flying started from a young age. She was enthralled by World War 1 pilots and she was determined to learn how to fly. This was not an easy task and Coleman’s passion went far beyond her interest to soar through the sky. “I knew we had no aviators, neither men nor women, and I knew the race needed to be represented along this most important line, so I thought it my duty to risk my life to learn aviation and to encourage flying among men and women of our race, who are so far behind the white race in this modern study.”

American aviation schools denied Coleman’s entry not only because she was a woman but also because she was black. She persisted. Bessie Coleman saved money, taught herself French, crossed the Atlantic and 7 months later was awarded an international pilot’s license from Federation Aeronautique Internationale in Paris.

Back in the USA, Bessie Coleman became the first African American women to stage a public flight performance and was known for her stunt flying. She earned a living performing aerial tricks.

Learn more about Bessie's trailblazing story here.

Isabella Bird travelling in Egypt.

"To a person sitting quietly at home, Rocky Mountain traveling, like Rocky Mountain scenery, must seem very monotonous; but not so to me, to whom the pure, dry mountain air is the elixir of life."

Isabella Bird
Adventurer
1831-1904

Isabella Bird was born in England in 1831, the daughter of an avid botanist. She suffered many ailments as a child but despite her alleged symptoms had a feisty and adventurous spirit. Needless to say, traditional Victorian Society and it's ideas of femininity were cramping her style.

Bird’s travels began after being prescribed a sea voyage to aid in her recovery from multiple years of suffering from an array of symptoms. From there on, she was hooked and her travels brought her across the globe. Isabella Bird rode frontwards on a horse through the Rocky Mountains, climbed volcanos in Hawaii, trekked through the dessert to Mount Sinai and explored the interior of Japan.

While she explored, Isabelle wrote books about her journeys. A critic of her book A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains is quoted as saying, “There never was anybody who had adventures as well as Miss Bird.”

On her last journey, which included a trip to Korea, Isabella who was now in her mid-60’s wrote to a friend saying “I have freedom, and you know how I love that! I am so thankful for the capacity for being interested.”

Want to learn more? We liked this piece here.

 


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