Blanche Stuart 'Betty' Scott (1889-1970)

scott_2_200.jpg Blanche Stuart Scott
Text excerpt and Image [Smithsonian Institution Negative #72-4803A] used with permission
Copyright © 2000 National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Blanche Stuart Scott was the first American woman to take a solo hop into the air, although her flight is not regarded as official.

Always interested in a challenge, Scott became the first woman to drive an automobile coast to coast in 1910. As she passed through Dayton, Ohio, she watched a Wright aircraft in flight, and she received her first airplane ride after she reached California.

Scott's auto trip drew the attention of Jerome Fanciulli, of the Curtiss exhibition team, who asked her if she would like to learn to fly. Glenn Curtiss did not share Fanciulli's enthusiasm for the stunt, however he agreed to give her lessons. She was the first and only woman to receive instruction from Curtiss.

To prevent her aircraft from gaining enough speed to become airborne while taxiing on her own, Curtiss inserted block of wood behind the throttle pedal. However, "something happened" on September 2, and Scott managed to fly to an altitude of forty feet in the air. She continued her lessons and made her debut as a member of the Curtiss team at a Chicago air meet on October 1- 9, 1910.

Scott flew for several exhibition teams, performing inverted flight and "Death Dives" from 4,000 feet. She was bothered by the public's interest in crashes and the lack of opportunities for women as engineers or mechanics, so she retired from flying in 1916. After a career in radio and film writing, she became a special consultant to the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, into the 1950's.

Blanche Stuart 'Betty' Scott
Text excerpt used with permission
Copyright © 2000 National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Glenn Curtiss' first and only female student, Scott became America's first female professional flyer and was billed as the "Tomboy of the Air" while touring with the Curtiss Exhibition Team. She became a test pilot for Glenn L. Martin, flying Martin prototypes before final blueprints for the aircraft were drawn up.


Blanche Stuart Scott

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Blanche Stuart 'Betty' Scott
Text excerpt used with permission
Copyright © 2000 National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Blanche Stuart "Betty" Scott was born April 8, 1889, in Rochester, New York where her father had a patent medicine business. Impetuous by nature, she soon attracted the attention and ire of the local authorities. The Rochester City Council objected to a thirteen year old driving an automobile about their city. However, there was not yet a minimum age for driving; Blanche was able to continue with her motoring trips.

A few years later, she would again make headlines behind the wheel of a car. In 1910, after attending finishing school, Scott became first woman to drive an automobile cross-country, travelling from New York to San Francisco. The trip was sponsored by the Willys-Overland Company and the car dubbed "Lady Overland."

At the time, there were only 218 miles of paved road outside of the cities of the United States. Scott's trip totalled over six thousand miles, zigzagging between Overland dealers. Scott was accompanied by newspaperwoman Gertrude Buffington Phillips, who did no driving but filed reports as they progressed westward. They left New York on May 16 and reached San Francisco on July 23, 1910.

The trip had given Scott a taste for adventure and publicity. After meeting the press agent for Curtiss, Scott went to Hammondsport, New York in August or September of 1910. She was accepted as Glenn H. Curtiss's first and only female student. Her first flight was on a 35 hp Curtiss pusher fitted with a governor to prevent takeoff on a student's taxi down the field. However, during one of Scott's "grass-cutting" sessions, a gust of wind lifted her suddenly airborne. She achieved a true solo flight shortly thereafter.

There is conflicting evidence regarding the exact date of Blanche Stuart Scott's first solo flight. That date was recognized by the Early Birds to be September 6, 1910. The date is variously given in newspaper accounts as early as August 18, 1910 and as late as mid-October of that year. Unfortunately, a fire reportedly claimed some of Ms. Scott's personal memorabilia during her lifetime. Whether Blanche Stuart Scott or Bessica Raiche was indeed America's first female aviator may never be determined.

After instruction, she joined Glenn Curtiss's Exhibition Team and made her first public appearance in Fort Wayne, Indiana on October 24, 1910. Thus began the career of the woman who indisputably holds the title of America's first female professional flier, then billed as "The Tomboy of the Air." During her exhibition career she earned up to five thousand dollars a week, appearing in meets with such luminaries as Lincoln Beachey and Harriet Quimby.

In 1911, Scott found herself in the odd position of inadvertently setting an aviation record. Scott took off from Mineola one afternoon and impulsively flew sixty miles before alighting back at the field. It was the first woman's long distance flight. Not long after, Scott became the first female test pilot. After contracting to fly for Glenn L. Martin in 1912, she flew Martin prototypes before the final blueprints for the aircraft had been made. In 1913, Scott joined the Ward Exhibition Team. She retired from active flying in 1916.

By the 1930s Scott was working in media, both print and broadcast. She spent nine years in California, writing for RKO, Universal, Warner Brothers and other studios. In a succession of radio shows, Scott appeared as "Roberta" on Hollywood and Rochester area stations, which she wrote and produced. She would also try her hand at stage appearances and short story writing.

On September 6, 1948, Scott was once again achieving distinction. On a flight with pilot Charles E. Yeager in a TF-80C, she became the first American woman to ride in a jet. For the pleasure of his passenger, Yeager included some snap rolls and a 14,000 foot dive. With her skills and experience, Blanche Stuart Scott was uniquely suited for her next mission. Beginning in 1954, she began work for the United States Air Force Museum. Acting as a travelling public relations unit, she sought to obtain materials related to early flight for that museum's collection.

Blanche Stuart Scott passed away on January 12, 1970. She was a member of the 'Early Birds', the 'OX-5 Club' and the 'Long Island Early Fliers Club'.


Blanche Stuart Scott

Smithsonian Institution Negative #72-4803A used with permission

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Blanche Stuart Scott
by Henry M. Holden, © 1991, 2001 Black Hawk Publishing

It was Friday, September 2, 1910, and the morning sun quickly burned away the ground fog at Curtiss Field, on Long Island. The day promised to be sunny and warm. Blanche Stuart Scott busily checked the wires and bolts on a single-engine Curtiss "Pusher" airplane.


Blanche Stuart Scott with Glenn Curtiss, 1910

Scott was thoroughly familiar with the construction of the machine. Glenn Curtiss, the machine's builder, had reluctantly given Scott instruction in the care and maintenance of one of his prize machines. Curtiss was also a clever businessperson. Scott insisted on learning to fly, but Curtiss believed aviation was the exclusive province of men. ...more



Blanche Stuart Scott


Blanche Stuart Scott "Ready for the Air"


Blanche Stuart Scott, Oakland, California, Feb. 25, 1912

Postal Issues


Blanche Stuart Scott, 28c, 1980


Blanche Stuart Scott, FDC, 1980

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Blanche Stuart Scott, FDC, 1980


Blanche Stuart Scott, FDC, 1980

Further Reading : In Print

scott_cummins_150.jpg Cummins, Julie
Tomboy of the Air
Daredevil Pilot Blanche Stuart Scott

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