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Katherine Stinson

Katherine Stinson delivering U.S. airmail.

Katherine Stinson

Katherine Stinson was born on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1891, in Fort Payne, Alabama. She was the fourth woman in the United States to obtain a pilot's license, which she earned on July 24, 1912, at the age of 21. Initially, she planned to get her license and earn money she earned from exhibition flying to pay for her music lessons. However, she found she liked flying so much that she gave up her piano career and decided to fly instead. She took her flying lessons from the well-known aviator Max Lille, who initially refused to teach her because she was female. But she persuaded him to give her a trial lesson and was so good that she flew alone after only four hours of instruction. A year after receiving her license, she began exhibition flying. On the exhibition circuit, she was known as the "Flying Schoolgirl."

After Stinson received her license, Stinson and her family moved to San Antonio, an area with an ideal climate for flying. There, she and her sister Marjorie began giving flying instruction at her family's aviation school in Texas. On July 18, 1915, Stinson became the first woman to perform a loop, at Cicero Field in Chicago, and went on to perform this feat some 500 times without a single accident. She also was one of the first women authorized to carry mail for the United States. During World War I, Stinson flew a Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny" for fundraising tours for the Red Cross. During exhibition flights in Canada, Stinson set a Canadian distance and endurance record.

The Stinson School closed in 1917, and Katherine became an ambulance driver for the Red Cross in Europe. There, she contracted influenza, which turned into tuberculosis in 1920, causing her retirement from aviation. Although she could no longer fly, she worked as an architect for many years in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She died in 1977 at the age of 86.