Monday, March 18, 2024

Georgia "Tiny" Broadwick - Parachutist

 By Nancy J. Farrier

Tiny with parachute - Wikimedia Commons
State Archives of North Carolina

Georgia Ann Thompson was born in 1893. She grew up in North Carolina and earned the nickname Tiny because she started weighed only three pounds at birth and grew up to be only five feet tall and 80 pounds. For her whole life people called her Tiny, although her determination and spirit did not match her diminutive size.


Tiny married at 12 and had a baby girl at 13. Her husband died in an accident when she was fourteen and she had to support her child working long days in a factory. 


Tiny in promotional photo as 
The Doll Girl
NC State Archives, public domain 

Georgia attended the 1907 State Fair and first saw Charles Broadwick’s Famous French Aeronauts perform. This group went up in hot air balloons and parachuted back to the ground. This was prior to skydiving from airplanes and so the new sight was thrilling to Tiny.


She went to Charles Broadwick and begged him to allow her to travel with them and learn to jump from a balloon. He agreed. Her mother was not happy with the decision but agreed on the condition that Tiny would leave her daughter with her mother instead of dragging her around the country. Tiny left her family and joined Broadwick’s group. Broadwick legally adopted Georgia in 1908 and she became Georgia "Tiny" Broadwick.


Charles Broadwick recognized a new performer and the boost she would bring to their tickets sales. She was small and had long, curly hair, so he introduced her as The Doll Girl. Tiny was 15 when she made her first jump from a hot air balloon. The sensation she created lasted through 1912 and then the show’s popularity slowly declined.


Tiny on jump seat
Wikimedia Commons

A famous pilot, Glenn Martin, saw Tiny jump and approached her about jumping from an airplane instead. She had no hesitation and wanted to work with him. Charles Broadwick made a different parachute for Tiny made of silk. It fit in a knapsack. A string attached it to the plane’s fuselage so that when Tiny dropped, the string would release the parachute.


Tiny rode suspended in a small seat behind the wing of the plane. When Martin reached an altitude of two thousand feet, Tiny pulled the lever and the seat swung away. For her first jump, she landed in Griffith Park in Los Angeles and became the first woman to parachute from a plane. She also became the first woman to parachute into water when she jumped into Lake Michigan.


Then, in 1914, WWI started. The military was losing planes and pilots. If the plane went down there was no recourse but for the pilot to go down too. The Army Air Corp went to see Tiny in San Diego. The asked her to jump from a military plane to see how it could be done safely.


Tiny Broadwick after 4 parachute jumps
on San Diego's North Island
NC State Archives, public domain

Tiny jumped four times for them at San Diego’s North Island. The first three went perfectly. The fourth one had problems at the start. She jumped and the parachute lines tangled in the tail of the plane. The wind was high and she had no way to get back in the plane. Tiny wasn’t one to get flustered. She cut all the lines except for one short piece. This caused her to fall free of the plane but the parachute wasn’t open. (This is most likely the first free fall, certainly the first for a woman.)


Tiny maintained her focus and used the short line to pull out the parachute. It then opened up and she had a safe flight down. That short cord became the early prototype for the rip cord on parachutes today. Most importantly, she proved that a pilot had the chance to get out of his damaged plane and get safely to ground. This is when the parachute became known as the “life preserver of the air.”


Tiny had to give up jumping in 1922. She’d broken many bones and dislocated shoulders during her career. Her ankles were problematic when she landed, so she retired.


Tiny demonstrating her parachute
to 82nd Airborne at Ft. Bragg
NC State Archives, public domain 

Tiny became known in aviation circles and to the military for her contributions. She was given many awards and honors. Among those, she was made an honorary member of the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg. 


At the time of her retirement, Tiny was quoted as saying, “I breathe so much better up threre, and it’s so peaceful being that near to God.” The National Air Museum Director, Philip S. Hopkins said, “…Measured by her courage and by her accomplishments, she stands tall among her colleagues—the pioneers of flight…” Tiny died at 85 and is buried in North Carolina.


What an amazing woman. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have done any of those things, but I admire her for doing them. What a contribution to our military too. I found it very interesting that pilots were taught to parachute by a teenage woman who weighed less than a hundred pounds. Wow.

Have you heard of Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick? Have you ever jumped out of an airplane? Here is a fun interview with Tiny done in 1963. Don't forget that I’d love to hear from you.

Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning, best-selling author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats and dog, and spend time with her family. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website:


  1. I've never heard of Tiny or her amazing story. Decades ago some of our youth group members went skydiving, but I didn't join them because of my fear of heights. I can't imagine doing what she did. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Linda, that would not have been me jumping from the balloon or the plane. I loved her story though.

  2. Thank you for posting today. I have never heard of this woman. I wonder if the skydivers of today know who blazed the trail for them. Absolutely amazing! I am not interesting in trying it, however.

    1. Connie, I'm not interested in trying it either. I do know that she was honored by the 82nd Airborne and I imagine many have heard of her.

  3. Fascinating, I've never heard of Tiny. I was shocked that she married at twelve and was a widow by 14. Apparently she stayed single all her life. I wonder what her daughter thought of her mother. Tiny definitely made a difference for pilot's safety.

    1. Did you watch the video that was linked in the post? Her daughter is on the video. Tiny did make a difference.

  4. Would you believe that Tiny is my sister-in-law's grandmother? Our small town, Henderson, NC, has a road named after her. There is also a book about her. There is a lot of information here in town about her, since this is where she lived, as well as lots of family who still live here.

    1. Susan, that is amazing. I absolutely loved her story. What bravery. I meant to link the book in my post and I forgot. It's nice to know that she is remembered. Thanks for sharing.