The First Licensed Woman Pilot – Raymonde de Laroche

Today, on March 8th we celebrate the International Woman’s Day, celebrating the strength, resilience and beauty of every single woman around the world.

However, coincidentally, 109 years ago one woman defied all odds and became the first licensed pilot ever. Her name – Raymonde de Laroche.

To illustrate, this was a time when women could not legally vote in the United States. That changed in 1920.

Women in Canada could not be in the Senate, as they were not regarded as “persons”. The British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council allowed women to be in the Senate only in 1929. The world was a dark and grim place for women on earth. To some extent, it still is.

Nevertheless, no matter the difficult circumstances, Raymonde de Laroche gained her pilot's license on March 8th, 1910.

From an actress to a pilot

She was born in 1882, in Paris, France. She had a fairly humble family – her father was a plumber by trade. As a child, Elise (her full birth name is Elise Raymonde Deroche, Raymonde de Laroche was her stage name.) had a keen eye for sports. When she grew older, motorcycles and automobiles attracted her attention as well.

As an adult, Elise became an actress and adopted the stage name of Raymonde de Laroche. When she became an actress, she started meeting various aviators and became very fascinated by aviation. The demonstrational flights in Paris by the Wright brothers in 1908 also had a lot of influence.

She approached Charles Voisin, a pilot and an airplane builder, and asked him to teach her how to fly. Raymonde de Laroche began her journey of becoming an aircraft pilot.

First flights

She started her flight training in October of 1909, in Chalons, some 140 kilometers east of Paris.

Because the Voisin‘s aircraft could seat only one person, Raymonde learned the controls while she was on the ground. She showed excellent progress and after she successfully taxied the aircraft around the airfield, she took off for her first flight. The distance of her first flight was not very long. She landed after 270 meters. Elise Raymonde Laroche sitting in an aircraft Elise Raymonde Laroche sitting in an aircraft

The calendar showed the date to be October 22nd, 1909. Subsequently, she became the first woman to pilot an aircraft. Although, that fact is widely debatable by aviation historians around the world. Some believe the first woman to pilot an aircraft is actually Therese Peltier, when she performed a solo flight in Turin, Italy in 1908.

The following day she returned to the airfield and completed another flight. This time it was a much longer flight, measuring 6 kilometers.

Raymonde de Laroche is officially a pilot

As she continued her flight training, great news followed.

On March 8th, 1910, the French Aero-Club officially issued an F.A.I. approved pilots license no. 36 to Raymonde de Laroche. She became the first woman with an official pilots license. Raymonde de Laroche pilots license Raymonde de Laroche pilots license

The same year, she attended several airshows, called aviation meetings at the time.

The first one was Heliopolis, which happened just a month before Raymonde gained her pilot's license. The Egyptian Aero Club organized the event and it was certified by F.A.I. Many sporting events were included in the 6-day meeting, namely rewards for highest speed, altitude and distance. Raymonde de Laroche won a prize, however, no sources are clear what for. She received 1.000 francs for first place in something for flying. (Nobody seems to know for what)