Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for Blanche Stuart Scott - Pioneer Women in Aviation: A-Z Challenge


Blanch Stuart Scott (1885-1970)
Her father adored her, doting on every whim it seemed. At thirteen, Blanche Stuart Scott was driving around the streets of Rochester, NY in her latest gift, a brand new one-cylinder Cadillac. The public, shocked that a gutsy redheaded young teen could drive a car, let alone a girl drive (wasn’t this a male sport?), watched in amazement. 

In 1898, there was no minimum age requirement in Rochester for driving an automobile, nor was it required a driver have a license. “Betty,” as she was called, was passionate about machines, automobiles in particular. It was only a matter of time before this passion would transfer to another great machine, those fabulous flying machines of the air.

Blanche Stuart Scott was born in Rochester, NY to John and Belle Scott in 1885. John made a good living selling patent medicine, enough to indulge their only child Betty. As a teen, Betty proved to be sports-minded. She competed in ice-skating and loved doing tricks on her bicycle. Considered a “tomboy” by the family, perhaps out-of-control was more like it, Betty’s mother decided to send her to a New England finishing school when John died in 1903. 


Flash forward to seven years later in 1910. Betty was 25 and her passion for the “horseless carriage” had not changed. Scanning the want ads one day, she learned that the Willys-Overland Company was sponsoring a cross-country trip by automobile from New York to San Francisco to promote their 25 hp Willys-Overland automobile. Betty wrote the company’s president and proposed a deal. She would drive his car (one he provided) across country as a publicity stunt and make a record for women. The president agreed the publicity would be great. The car would be called "Lady Overland." A newspaper woman would travel with her.

The journey began and after dealing with flat tires, driving over potholes, dodging rabbits, gophers, horses and cattle, and getting lost when maps failed, Betty completed the 5,393 mile route (only 220 miles were paved) in 67 days. She became the first woman in the U.S. to travel across country by automobile.


Betty preparing to leave New York. Notice the onlookers are all male.
On side of car it reads: “The Car The Girl And The Wide Wide World"




On the trip Betty witnessed a Wright Brothers aircraft flying overhead in Ohio, and decided then and there she wanted to fly. Back home again, she made it her goal to learn. After a bit of finagling, aircraft builder Glenn Curtiss  agreed to give her lessons in Hammondsport, NY. She would learn on the Curtiss one-seater (a rear pusher-type propeller). Training involved learning how to taxi the aircraft ("grass cutting"), which is exactly how Betty "accidentally" took off flying one day, September 6, 1910, and made a record. 

Betty learning to fly. Instructor Glenn Curtiss on left


Betty at the wheel
How a Curtiss aircraft (pusher type) looked in the air


Curtiss had inserted a block of wood behind the throttle pedal to keep the plane from gaining speed and lifting off, but something went wrong. The wood must have slipped out. A gust of wind suddenly lifted the plane and Betty took off soaring, flying for 20 feet, forty feet high. The unplanned lift off made Betty the first woman to solo in an airplane in the U.S. However the record was (and still is) contested. Bessica Raiche made an "intentional" flight ten days later (September 16) and is credited by the Aeronautical Society of America (see post here) as the first woman to fly solo. Whereas Betty's flight is credited by Early birds of Aviation.

Commenting years later on her solo flight, Blanche said: 
"I learned in two days. . . .The technique was for the instructor to wave 'goodbye' and God bless you' and you were on your way. They had you cutting grass--flying just above the ground--which we know today is very dangerous."

Betty started flying professionally for the Curtiss exhibition team. At Fort Wayne, IN she became the first woman to fly at a public event in the U.S., as the first stunt pilot as well. She learned how to thrill the crowds, doing nose dives and flying upside down, and was promoted as "The Tomboy of the Air." She dropped out of aviation for awhile to marry a Mr. Stuart (first name not given) in 1910, but returned in 1911 and broke a long distance record for women, flying nonstop 60 miles from Mineola, NY. 


In 1912, she became a test pilot (another first for women), hiring on with Glenn Martin, a well-known airplane designer and builder. She made a lot of money working for him, as the work was considered quite dangerous, up to $5000 a week, which was a lot of money then.
  
In 1916, Betty retired from aviation, feeling she had survived her share of accidents and crash landings. She was 30. Incredibly, she had flown for seven years without a pilot's licenseShe went on to work as a movie producer in silent film. Divorcing her first husband some time after, she married another, who then died. She wrote comedy dialogue as a script writer for fourteen years in Hollywood. Then, returning to Rochester, NY to help her ailing mother, she became a radio broadcaster, developing the popular show, "Rambling with Roberta. Lastly, in 1954, she took a position with The United States Air Force Museum to obtain materials and promote the museum, traveling the world, during which time she made guest appearances on radio and TV and shared her adventures and the early days of aviation. She had come full circle


Other credits:
--1948: 1st woman to fly in a jet - in a TF-80C with Chuck Yeager, who did snap rolls and a 14,000 foot dive to impress her.
--1980: U.S. Postal Service honored her with a stamp, honoring her achievements in aviation




Source:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blanche_Scott; http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/scott.html
http://www.earlyaviators.com/eblanche.htm; http://www.crookedlakereview.com/articles/67_100/82jan1995/82shilling.html



20 comments:

  1. Very determoned young lady in her day. Wonderful story and a pleasure to read.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Hi Yvonne. I think there may a movie about her, or maybe it was a TV series I read about...can't remember. Research is starting to blend.

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  2. You've done an incredible amount of work on your posts, Sharon! They are so well done. Bravo.

    Cherdo
    Cherdo on the Flipside
    "Favorite Characters, Favorite Lines" on the A-to-Z Challenge 2016

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    1. Hello Cherdo! Hope you're enjoying the a-z this year. Thank you. It's been a lot to do. I've learn so much and I wouldn't trade that, but my husband thinks I'm crazy. We're both looking forward to May!

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  3. What a spunky gal! I like her attitude! She sure did come full circle, didn't she? What an incredible life. Speaking of incredible, you've done an incredible job with your theme!

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Thanks Michelle. I've enjoyed your a-z posts as well. I think Scott would make a great fictional character too.. Actually, all of the women in this series would!!

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  4. This lady has seen two world wars and the Great Depression. Going back her parents were alive during the Civil War. In her Golden Years she would have witnessed the Woodstock Generation and man reaching the moon. She must have seen the world change incredibly during her lifetime.

    I’m exploring different types of dreams and their meanings.
    T is for Top Ten Dreams
    Stephen Tremp’s Breakthrough Blogs

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    1. That just blows my mind away. I realized this about a grandmother once. I wonder what people will say about us someday.

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  5. My head's dizzy from all that this incredible woman accomplished in her lifetime. I'm in awe of her. I think your theme has been one of the most interesting and exciting in this year's challenge. I'm coming back to re-read these posts.

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    1. I'm just dizzy trying to keep up with these amazing ladies. Thank you! I would love it if you came back :)

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  6. Fabulous subject. I read many of these tales of early female aviators (just as intrepid as the men and mainly uncredited!) when writing a book about women power earlier this year. ~Liz http://www.lizbrownleepoet.com

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    1. That's so cool you've just written a book and know some of these ladies! Sadly so many never did get credit and never will. As I'm sure you discovered, there are plenty more. Thanks for visiting.

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  7. It's like there's nothing she wasn't brave enough to do! Her cross country road trip sounds like the premise of The Great Race, one of my favorite movies! Wonderful post! :)

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    1. She had youth on her side and a whole lot of spunk. She must have been fun to know. Thanks for visiting Lexa!

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  8. Wow, Betty sounds like such a gutsy woman, for sure. I'm amazed by all her achievements!

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    1. Isn't she a kick. She's one of my favorites so far. Thanks for visiting Heather!

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  9. How funny that they were surprised even to see her DRIVE and look at all she accomplished!

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    1. You just can't judge a person I guess when so young. She sure had a mind of her own.. Really admire that about her!

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  10. Trying to catch up reading posts I didn't maneged to read durign the challenge :-)

    Now this was a woman who knew what she wanted :-)

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    1. She's one of my favorites in the list. She would make a good character in a book too :) Thanks, Sarah!

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