Picture of Bessie Coleman stamp

Bessie Coleman

While many people know about Amelia Earhart, an early woman aviator, not many know about Bessie Coleman, an African-American woman who got her pilot's license even before Earhart did. Here is a little information about her life.

From the Smithsonian Magazine Letters to the Editor column, October 1994, referring to an article about the 99's (women aviators):
Dear Sir:

To augment August's article, in 1921, two years before Amelia Earhart received her license from the National Aeronautic Association, the U.S. chapter of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, a license was granted to Bessie Coleman, a black manicurist from Chicago. She had to go to France to learn to fly because she was denied instruction in this country.

And the June 1934 cover of The 99'er pictured Mary Riddle, at the time the only licensed American Indian pilot.

Lee Miller

To learn more, visit the Bessie Coleman Branch of the Chicago Public Library or see her 99's biography. You can also learn more about women in aviation from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the Ninety-Nines home page.

Bessie Coleman appears on the commercially produced Black Wings CD-ROM, a history of African Americans in aviation.

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