A Woman to Know: Jacqueline Cochran

Adventure is a state of mind. — Jacqueline Cochran

Adventure is a state of mind. — Jacqueline Cochran

(image via Smithsonian Institution)

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In 1953, Jacqueline Cochran flew faster than the speed of sound, becoming the first woman to (literally) break that barrier. She went on to smash a number of world records: speed, altitude, distance.

But she cemented her notoriety as a pilot long before that 1953 milestone. She aced pilot school after only three weeks, seeing dollar signs in her unusual role as a lady pilot. In 1935, she founded her own makeup line, Wings of Beauty, and herself flew products to distributors in much-ballyhooed events. She even developed a special moisturizer inspired by her experience in dry airplane cabins.

In the midst of World War II, Jackie argued female pilots should be included in the war effort. With an Army General’s directive, she hand-selected an elite group of women flyers to transport soldiers, equipment, supplies and more across the Atlantic. She trained more than 1,000 women civilians to act as pilots, forming the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in 1942. She’d ultimately direct the WASPs for the duration of the war, winning accolades back home and earning approval from the male-dominated industry.

When she died in 1980, her record was unassailable. She held more speed, altitude and distance records than any pilot at that point in history — male or female.

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