|Therese Peltier (1873-1926)|
Therese was not your traditional pioneer aviator. She was a professional sculptress by trade. Born in France in 1873, not much more is known, or about the type of sculptures she created. We do know she was friends with Leon Delagrange, a fellow sculptor known for his exhibitions. Leon was also one of the world's top pioneer aviators.
Leon had recently ordered and purchased a 1907 Voison biplane. As was customary, the plane was named after its owner, Delagrange I. The airplane was powered by a 50 hp V8 engine and had a wingspan of 33 feet.
While touring Turin, Italy in his new plane, near the French border, Leon offered Therese a ride as passenger. Therese was 35 and one can assume by the smile on her face in the photo, she was excited and perhaps a bit hesitant. Whether she had traveled there to meet Leon or lived near Turin is unclear.
Leon Delagrange sculpting in his shop,
one in which Therese may have worked.
|How the 1907 Voison Biplane looked in the air. It had what was called a box-kite tail.|
Therese and Leon flew for a distance of 656 feet that day, six feet off the ground. Therese enjoyed the ride so much, she must have taken lessons, because two months later in September 1908 she flew solo in the same plane (exact date is debated). She became the first woman to pilot a heavier-than-air craft (some dispute whether the plane qualified as a heavier-than-air craft).
Apparently, Therese caught the flying bug. She made plans to enter a flying competition that offered 1,000 francs as grand prize. She wanted to be the first woman to fly one kilometer, but in 1910 Leon was killed in a crash. Therese quit flying and never received a license, and her brief flirtation as an aviator ended.
|Therese with Leon in the Delagrange I|