You know Amelia Earhart, but you've probably never heard of Harriet Quimby. It's quite likely that she inspired Earhart, who didn't start flying until a decade after Quimby. And while Amelia was famous for being the first solo female pilot to cross the Atlantic in 1932, Quimby was the first woman pilot to fly solo over the English Channel in 1912. She was also the first woman to obtain a pilot's license in America. As if that weren't notable enough, she wrote screenplays for D.W. Griffith between flights.
So why are we all familiar with Earhart and not Quimby? Well, for one thing, Americans love famous disappearances (take Jimmy Hoffa, for example), and to be fair, flying across the Atlantic is a much longer trip than flying the English Channel. But Quimby had something else count against her as well—unfortunate timing. You see, she crossed the English Channel the day after the Titanic sank, meaning her amazing exploit was overshadowed by one of the greatest naval disasters in history.
Fortunately, a century later, The Harriet Quimby Centenary Project has stepped up to help make Quimby's legacy known. The group is fundraising to erect a monument in Dover, England, where she took off on her ground-breaking flight across the Channel. In addition, they are also hoping to put together an informational website and DVD about the pilot, all of which they're hoping to get together before the official centennial of her flight over the Channel, April 16, 2012.