Harriet Quimby was the first female aviator to fly an aeroplane solo across the English Channel from an airfield at Whitfield to land near Boulogne Sur Mer on the 16th April 1912.
But this pioneering and inspirational achievement by a female aviator was overshadowed by the Titanic disaster, which filled the newspaper headlines back then.
Martin Young, chairman of The Harriet Quimby Centenary Project, wants to ensure that the centenary is not overshadowed by the Titanic disaster once again.
He notes that pioneers Louis Bleriot, Matthew Webb and Charles Rolls have monuments to their pioneering achievements in the Dover area, Quimby is still forgotten, not only in Dover, but across Great Britain.
Young discovered Quimby three years ago while researching system failures, when he read her story in one of the local papers.
The Project has obtained considerable funding from Kent County Council and the Lottery Heritage Fund but funding for a commissioned sculpture (made of stainless steel and standing at 2.7m high, to grace the cliffs above the Eastern Docks at Dover, to catch and reflect the rising and setting sun) is currently causing problems, and Young warns “we will not be able to get it financed, made and erected by the Centenary weekend unless sufficient funds become available soon.”
Additionally the Project is set to commission an educational DVD and website, about Harriet’s life and achievements, the Bleriot XI aircraft and its flying characteristics, Dover’s history of early aviation, the airfield at Whitfield, and how the sculpture was made.
The Project plans to celebrate during the centenary weekend in Dover on 14th and 15th April with exhibits including a manniquin (or even a young lady) dressed in a replica purple satin flying suit – which he says was Harriet’s trademark, a full size Bleriot XI, and a scale model of a Bleriot XI which will be donated to Dover Museum, to replace a model made in 1914, but destroyed in WW2.
The Project will be promoting its cause to highlight Quimby’s story at the ‘Women in Aviation event in March at Headcorn airfield.
In it’s final issue of 1912 in December Flight summarised aviator achievements in which it afforded a couple of lines mentioning Harriet Quimby.