1784: First Woman to Fly


On June 4, 1784, at the age of 19, a French opera singer named Élisabeth Thible became the first woman aeronaut in history by ascending in a hot air balloon in Lyon.

A painter named M. Fleurant had been scheduled to fly with the Comte de Laurencin, but Laurencin got cold feet after an earlier rough landingand Thible enthusiastically volunteered to take his place.

As the balloonnamed La Gustave in honor of King Gustav III of Sweden, who was present that dayrose over the buildings, the passengers began to sing arias from comic operas: Thible, dressed as Minerva, sang “I am victorious, I am Queen” from La Belle Arsene and Fleurant sang from an opera called Zémire et Azor, based on The Beauty and the Beast.

After climbing to an estimated height of 1,500 meters for a 45-minute flight, the balloon landed badly near the fort of the Duchère, about four kilometers distance. The balloon burst open at the top and the canvas covered and trapped them. Fleurant cut his way out with a knife, only to find that Thible had already freed herself with nothing worse than a sprained ankle.

Sources: French Wikipedia and Ballooning: A History, 1782-1900 by S.L. Kotar and J.E. Gessler (2010)

Image: Colored etching of a Montgolfier balloon ascending in January 1784 (source)

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