Woman’s love of daring is now finding its favorite indulgence in aerial navigation
Swimming, boating, automobiling, all these have become tame in the esteem of the modern daughter of Eve, who is never so happy as when she is defying the laws of safety.
The transit of the air, a new science, a new sensation, gives her just the joy she needs, and the thrill of dangling from the swaying wicker basket at the end of a huge gas bag is the last word in enjoyment.
In fact, the fair aeronaut has not stopped at ballooning.
She has even essayed the airplane, on which experts are now working in hope of producing a practical means by which mankind and womankind may emulate the flight of the birds and give the final laugh to gravity.
Women mastering the air
Only a few days ago, Mme Thérèse Peltier, a young sculptress of merit, gained herself the distinction of being the first woman to master the airplane.
She made her first flight, with M Delagrange, on the military square at Turin, and, after having been up with him for several minutes, essayed to make an ascent alone. She didn’t go very far up, and the flight only lasted for two minutes, but even at this short duration, it was enough to establish a record, and to show that for every forward advance man makes in the great problem of aerial navigation he will find some woman close behind and ready to do likewise.
Mrs Henry Farman, wife of the distinguished French navigator, who recently, accompanied by his spouse, spent some time in this country, is a woman who has figured in a number of noted flights. Although she is rich, and was brought up in London, no one would ever think so, for she has been transformed by a 10 years’ residence in Paris, and speaks French like a native.
She has been up many times in balloons, but was only recently for the first time allowed to make a trial of the flying machine, and was so elated over her success that she has been promised a chance to repeat it in the near future.
In a number of cities, clubs of women aeronauts are being formed, and the ambition of all their members is to go one step further in daring than the sister members.
France leading the effort
For once, it is not American women who have led the way in this mania for ballooning.
A French woman, Mme du Gast, a most noted sportswoman, who is a hunter and great automobilist and who became famous when she was kidnapped in Morocco, set the example in devotion to aeronautics as the most diverting of sports.
The Aero club of France leads the way in the science of navigating the air, and naturally, those women who are lucky enough to live in the French capital, and to have an acquaintanceship with the members, have something of a start on their sisters in other parts of the world. Ballooning has become so common in Paris that is is nothing out of the ordinary for a French gentleman who wants to entertain to phone to his friends, order a balloon, have a hamper made up, and take the party for a cloudland journey far from the heat and noise of the city.
The Aero club has a large park for the tethering and filling of balloons, and a member is much sought after by women who want the novel joys of being entertained on rides through the clouds.
Among the first American women who were permitted to go up as guests of the club were Mrs Newbold Edgar and Mrs. Courtland Bishop. Without showing the least sign of concern, they went up in the air, far above Paris, and reveled in the joys of that which is said to outclass every form of riding for luxurious comfort.
Both became so enthusiastic that on their return to the United States they immediately took the place of women pioneers of the sport in Uncle Sam’s realm.
Courtland Bishop resides near Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Mrs Bishop persuaded him to take an interest in the new sport, and as a result Pittsfield has become a sort of a center for American ballooning, and Mrs Bishop and Mrs Edgar have now made so many ascents that they are veterans, and no longer can take fright, no matter how much a balloon may tilt.
Mrs James Brown Potter, the famous actress; Mrs James Brown Lord, Miss Ada de Acosta and Mrs P Lorillard Ronalds are other American women who learned the joys of ballooning as guests of Frenchmen.
Mrs Newbold Edgar claims the record. In a ballooning sense, she says she has been up in the air more times than any other American woman, but it is said that she will have some trouble in showing more ascents than have been marked up to the credit of Mrs Julian P Thomas.
But the French woman is not content now merely to go along as the guest of some member of the club, or to make an ascent with the balloon under control of some professional pilot. Now the great ambition of the gentler sex is to operate the balloon themselves. Mme Durcouf and Mlle Gache were the first women to succeed in actually making such a trip.
It was with deep trepidation, and not until after the operation of the balloon was demonstrated to them many times, that they were allowed to rise above an awe-stricken crowd in Paris and start a journey that lasted four hours.
It was too uneventful a trip, the two frail aeronauts said, to merit any special mention. They got up all right, the balloon acted properly, the winds were gallantly kind, and they made a flawless descent.
The daughter of the Count von Zeppelin, whose experiments in the development of the airship have been a matter of so much public interest, has made ascents with her father in the famous airship that was recently burned up. She has become ambitious to go up alone, and it is said that she has so well persuaded her father that he will permit her to make a trial when he is convinced that the airship on which he is now working is going to be a success.
Ranleigh, England, sees many balloon races, and fashionable women are not only enthusiastic spectators, but some of them have actually been passengers in some of these races.
Ballooning in America
Philadelphia has a woman’s ballooning club, with a membership of 20.
Miss Aida de Acosta is one of the few women who have ever had the privilege of making an ascent with Santos Dumont, the noted French expert. First they went up together. Then an experimental trip was made with the airship fastened by a long guy rope in the hands of the inventor. Then Miss de Acosta went up alone and took a short ride.
Mrs Julian P Thomas has attracted much attention by her pluck. She has known most of the thrilling experiences that fall to the lot of the aeronaut. About the only thing that has not happened to her is to be killed. She has known what it is to have the balloon bumping along close to chimneys, steeples and rooftops, without any means of getting higher and putting an end to the peril. She has been in peril innumerable times, but the fascination is so great that every time Dr Thomas decides on an ascent she wants to go with him, and generally has her way.
Mrs C S Rolls of England, wife of the daring automobile driver, has also made a number of thrilling ascents.
Mrs George E Heaton went a little further than these women, for she assisted her husband in building an air ship, and just as soon as his tests are completed she is going to show her confidence in the production of their skill by taking a trip in it alone.
When aerial navigation finally gets here right, it won’t be any trouble to persuade women to become devotees.