Jacqueline Cochran was board in the beginning of the 20th Century around Panama City, Florida. In a true Rags to Riches story, she began life as the youngest of five children living in a poverty that was all too familiar to families of the time. By the end of her life she had become one of the most decorated females of her generation.
Cochran received her pilot’s license in 1932, after learning to fly in just two weeks. She quickly made a name for herself in aviation. She flew in the MacRobertson Air Race in 1934 and after working withAmelia Earhart to open the race for women, was the only woman to compete in the Bendix race in 1937. Later that year, she also set a new woman’s national speed record.
She was the first person to make a blind landing and the set new transcontinental speed and altitude records
By 1938, she was considered the best female pilot in the United States. However, in 1939 the worlds focus was on Hitler’s troops in Germany. Her offer to rally female pilots for the US war effort if needed was denied by General Arnold. But that did not stop her and Cochran took her talents to Great Britain.
In Britain, she volunteered her services to the Royal Air Force. For several months she worked for the British Air Transport Auxiliary, recruiting qualified women pilots in the United States and taking them to England where they joined the Air Transport Auxiliary. But the spring of 1942 there was a severe shortage of male pilots. General Hap Arnold asked Cochran to return to the United States to train women pilots to fly America’s military aircraft. She was later appointed Director of Woman‘s Flying Training for the United States.
After the war she continued to fly through the glass ceiling. In 1953 she was the first women to break the sound barrier. By her death in 1980 she was world-renowned and had used her avaiation talents and her personality to further women’s role in aviation.
Did I mention that she also owned her own cosmetic company?!
Other honors include:
- In 1965, Cochran was invested in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame.
- In 1971, induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
- In 1992, Cochran was induced into the Florida Hall of Fame.
- In 1993, induction in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
- In 1996, the United States Post Office honored Cochran with a 50¢ postage stamp, depicting her in front of a Bendix Trophy pylon with her P-35 in the background and the words: “Jacqueline Cochran Pioneer Pilot.”
- In 2006, Cochran is one of the inductees into the Lancaster, California Aerospace Walk of Honor, and the first woman to be inducted.
- In 1999, Cochran was designated a Women’s History Month Honoree by the National Women’s History Project.
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