Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Blanche Scott Pioneer Pilot

By Suzanne Norquist

Imagine women brave enough to fly the newly-invented airplane in 1910. Blanche Stuart Scott was one such woman. At age twenty-six, she became the first woman in the United States to fly a plane solo. The short flight took place by accident during training. Soon, she became an “aviatrix,” performing daredevil stunts high above the ground.

The choice to fly shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Blanche’s family. As a pre-teen, she became a champion ice skater. By age twelve, she amazed her friends by performing tricks on a bicycle. At age fourteen, her father bought her a car, a one-cylinder Cadillac (yes, her family was wealthy). There was no minimum driving age, and no license required.

In 1910, she became the second woman to drive an automobile across the country, from New York to San Francisco. The Willys-Overland car company sponsored the trip. They sent a female reporter with her to record the entire event. While on a stop in Dayton, Ohio, she saw two planes flying over a field. She later recalled thinking, “Anybody who’d do that was crazy as a loon.” Of course, she wanted to fly.
Because of her notoriety, she was taught by none other than Glenn Curtiss, founder of the U.S. aircraft industry. The plane had a thirty-three-horsepower motor and room for one person to sit out front. Mr. Curtiss had to run along beside the wing, giving verbal instructions as she practiced “grass cutting” (taxiing the plane).
Blanche’s skirt kept blowing into her face so that she couldn’t see where she was going. Finally, one of the mechanics gave her bicycle clips to attach the bottom of the skirt around her ankles.

Mr. Curtiss had placed a block behind the throttle to keep the plane from reaching the speed required for take-off. On one of her “grass cutting” practices, the block slipped. She flew forty feet into the air for a brief time, making her the first woman in the United States to fly a plane.

It wasn't long before she was flying in exhibition air shows and earned the nickname “Tomboy of the Air.” She was known for stunts like flying upside down and performing “death dives” from four thousand feet to two hundred feet in seconds.
Since, at the time, women didn’t wear pants, Blanche wore specially made bloomers filled with three petticoats. A Fifth Avenue designer created her brown satin flying suit.

She took a break from flying for a brief marriage to the press agent from her cross-country automobile tour. However, the life of bridge playing, telephoning, and social visiting didn’t suit her. Soon, she was divorced and flying exhibitions again. She also worked as the first female test pilot in America.

Accidents and fatalities were common, and Blanche had her share (of accidents, not fatalities).

In 1913, a wing cable snapped during a performance, causing the airplane to crash into a swamp. She suffered a shoulder injury  which kept her from flying for almost a year. She flew some after that but gave up her wings in 1916 at age thirty-two.

She was bothered by the public’s “morbid interest in crashes” and their “disappointment at air meets where no one was killed or injured.”

Blanche moved into another cutting-edge industry—film. She wrote scripts and acted in a few silent movies. Of course, some of them involved airplanes, like The Aviator and the Autoist Race for a Bride in 1912.

For fourteen years, she wrote scripts for some of Hollywood’s largest studios. She hosted radio programs. During World War II, she worked in a factory making batteries.

For every aviation first, she was invited to ride along. She helped to preserve the history of aviation until she passed away in 1970 at age eighty-four. In 1980, she was honored with a postage stamp.
Blanche Scott was the prime example of living life to its fullest.

”Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection
Four historical romances celebrating the arts of sewing and quilting.
Mending Sarah’s Heart by Suzanne Norquist

Rockledge, Colorado, 1884
Sarah seeks a quiet life as a seamstress. She doesn’t need anyone, especially her dead husband’s partner. If only the Emporium of Fashion would stop stealing her customers, and the local hoodlums would leave her sons alone. When she rejects her husband’s share of the mine, his partner Jack seeks to serve her through other means. But will his efforts only push her further away?
For a Free Preview, click here:
Suzanne Norquist is the author of two novellas, “A Song for Rose” in A Bouquet of Brides Collection and “Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection. Everything fascinates her. She has worked as a chemist, professor, financial analyst and even earned a doctorate in economics. Research feeds her curiosity, and she shares the adventure with her readers. She lives in New Mexico with her mining engineer husband and has two grown children. When not writing, she explores the mountains, hikes, and attends kickboxing class.

She authors a blog entitled, Ponderings of a BBQ Ph.D.


  1. Thanks for the post! I can see why you wrote about this woman, with her varied resume! It sort of resembles all of the different things YOU have done!

    1. Ha. I never thought of it that way. She certainly lived an interesting life.

  2. I'm glad you wrote about Blanche. We always hear about Amelia Earhart and the men, but I'd never heard of Blanche.

    1. You're right. I'm glad the post office honored some of these ladies with stamps. That's how I discovered her.

  3. Wow this is so cool. I love reading about women of history and why they wound up in history. Thank you for sharing this little piece of a gem. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

    1. You're welcome. I loved researching this. She lived such an interesting life.