Flying Into History

 A while ago, when I was knee deep in research for my latest sweet historical romance, I happened across the mention of a woman who made history. Only I’d never heard of her.

I quickly became quite interested in learning more about her contributions to our past, though.

You see, her big historical moment might have been touted around the world, but fell by the wayside when a much bigger event took place at the same time.

Harriett Quimby was born in May 1875 on a Michigan farm.  She was in her early teens when the family moved to San Francisco. With dreams of becoming an actress, she was listed as one in the 1900 census.

She began writing for magazines.  In 1903, she moved to New York City and became a theater critic. Reportedly, she even authored a few screenplays that were turned into a silent films.

Harriett eventually turned to photojournalism as a career and leaned into adventure and excitement. She enjoyed travel, theater, and automobiles. In 1906, after a ride on an automobile racetrack, she bought her own car. At that time, it was unheard of for a woman to do such thing.

Through her journalism work, she covered an aviation tournament at Belmont Park in 1910. Harriett was friends with siblings John and Matilde Moisant. John ran a flying school and produced his own monoplane. Harriett enrolled in the school, along with Matilde. In  the summer of 1911, Harriett became the first American woman to be licensed as a flyer by the Aero Club of America, the U.S. branch of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. A few women had flown before her, but none at that time were licensed.

Tall and energetic, Harriett was hard to miss, especially when she created a flying costume that became her trademark. She wore a purple satin jacket and matching riding pants with high laced boots and a soft cowl around her head.

Seeking more excitement, she went on the barnstorming (a form of flying in which stunt pilots performed tricks, either individually or in groups called flying circuses) circuit where she became quite popular.

In the spring of 1912, after weeks of preparation, she traveled to England to purchase a Bleriot airplane. She borrowed one in Dover, England. Early on the morning of April 16, Harriet became the first woman to fly across the English Channel, landing in France.

Unfortunately, just a few hours after her history-making flight, the world discovered the tragic news of the Titanic sinking the previous day and poor Harriet was obliterated from the headlines.

She returned to America and barnstorming, joining in several air meets. On July 1, 1912, she was paid handsomely to participate in an air show near Boston. In front of the gathered spectators, her plane lurched, throwing her lone passenger to his death. Although she struggled to gain control, Harriett was also thrown from the plane and was killed.

Harriett had been a pilot less than a year, but her impact on the aviation industry, particularly for women, continues to this day.

As I was working on my book, I thought about how young women of 1912 may have looked up to Harriet, found inspiration in her achievements. You can read more about her impact on my fictional characters in Quinn (Pendleton Petticoats Book 9).  The sweet historical romance releases tomorrow.

She’s waging a war for women’s rights

He’s fighting a battle to win her heart…

There’s nothing typical about Quinn Fairfield. The outspoken suffragette spends her days writing sensational headlines as a newspaper reporter and indulging her natural curiosity. She’s much more likely to be found riding a bicycle around town than learning the social graces at which her sister, Caitlyn, excels. When Caitlyn announces her plans to wed a man Quinn doesn’t trust, she sets out to find a reason to break up the happy couple. In the process, she finds herself falling for an intriguing, kind-hearted man.

After spending several years in Portland at college, Walker Williams returns to Pendleton, eager to make his mark on the world. He’s determined to become a legendary architect despite the challenges that arise from his upbringing on the nearby Umatilla Reservation. When a feisty red-headed newspaper reporter catches his eye and captures his heart, Walker fights his growing feelings for her. He’ll do anything to shelter Quinn from the prejudices aimed at him and his heritage.

Can the two of them overcome their fears, set aside the burdens of the past, and surrender to the sweet romance blossoming between them?

Filled with laughter, adventure, and historical tidbits from 1912, Quinn is a sweet historical romance brimming with hope and love.

You can find Quinn on Amazon:

To enter to win a digital copy of the book, answer this question:

Name a woman who has inspired or influenced you in a positive manner.


Website | + posts

After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky western heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

27 thoughts on “Flying Into History”

  1. Good morning Shanna- wonderful blog. Harriet was an amazing Lady, thank you for sharing her story. I can’t wait to begin Quinn. I’d have to say both of my Granny’s inspired me. My Granny Lucas was an Angel and she taught me to believe in Jesus and the goodness of people. My Granny Douglas was like my 2nd Mom and she taught me to never give up on my dreams. She always had my back and has been my own personal cheerleader. I miss them both.
    Both had huge faith in me and gave me the strength to always follow my heart. They never change the world, but they certainly changed & influenced mine. They both I know, are watching over me now from Heaven.
    Love, hugs, and I hope you have a great day Shanna.

    • Hi Sweet Tonya!
      So glad you had both your granny’s to teach and guide (and cheer) you! It’s a wonderful thing they had such an influence on your life that will stay with you always.
      Love and hugs to you!

  2. I do believe I have heard of Harriet before. Very intriguing woman. My sister was my big influence. She was into women’s lib big time and introduced me to so many new things. She remained a wonderful, nice person until the end of her life.

  3. Thanks for sharing Harriet’s story. I hope that her achievements gave her happiness. I had a wonderful Sunday School teacher during my teen years and she encouraged me and taught me as I witnessed how God was working in her life.

  4. Wow, what a sad ending to a spunky and amazing woman. Thank you for bringing her to our attention today! Many women over the years have shown me I can be stronger than I think. My grandma was a big contributor to that.

    • Hi Susan,
      So awesome your grandma was a positive influence in your life… it’s amazing what we can do accomplish when someone believes in us!
      Thanks so much for stopping in today!

  5. I am enjoying reading Quinn at this time!! I hate to say I have heard very little of Harriet Quimby before reading about her in Quinn but I will read more on her. I went thru a fascination with Amelia Earhart when I was in elementary school for some reason and read everything our school library had on her and to this day will read or watch anything pertaining to her when I see her name. There was just something about her that made me believe a woman can do anything a man can.

    • Yay! So glad you are enjoying Quinn. One tidbit I read said Amelia was inspired by Harriet. If that’s true, even her short aviation career had some huge impact. I think young girls need positive influences like Amelia and Harriet who tell us women are powerful.
      Have an amazing day, my friend!

  6. Loved your blog. I’ve never heard of her and she lived quite an accomplished life even though it was cut short. The sinking of the Titanic really did overshadow her greatest accomplishment. The things she did were very unusual for the time period too. I can’t think of a particular woman that had more influence in my life than the other but I’d have to give special recognition to my step-mom. She had one only child that was in college when she decided to marry my father and gain 5 step-children that ranged from 3 years old to 21. Boy she didn’t know whT she was getting herself into. She was a big influence in all of of lives and was just our mom to my younger sister and I that ended up living with her and my father. My grandmothers and mother were also great woman though. I hope I win this book and get the opportunity to read and review it!

    • Hi Stephanie!
      Oh, that is fantastic about the positive role your step-mom had in your life. Just awesome! And I’m sure you and your sister are extra special to her, too! Thank you stopping by today!

  7. My grandmother bertha Hansen, she was one tough cookie had to be with 3 boys she raised one being my father.

  8. My mom was and is the biggest influence in my life! She is my best friend matrin of honor in my wedding!! She has always been here for me and always someone I can talk to and get advice from about anything!

  9. Cool history lesson. We think of Amelia and never learned of those who came before her.

    At different times in my life, there have been many women who have made an impact on my life.

    • Amelia is definitely the one who garnered the most attention (and rightfully so!). So glad you’ve had women who’ve had a positive impact in your life. Thank you for stopping in today, Denise!

  10. What a fascinating life especially for that time period. So sad it was cut short. She discount what she love.My Karenina was the woman who influenced me Her constant love and showing me I was stronger then I knew. I thank God every night she was my Mom.

    • So Sorry, the synod on my kindle has gone crazy. It was supposed to say “she died doing what she loved.” And the other was ” my late Mother”.

  11. Mother Teresa and her work have been an inspiration. We need to respect everyone and care for them. Their beliefs are not what is important, it is their humanity. Do what you can to make the lives of others better even in small ways.

Comments are closed.