Blanche Scott: America’s First Female Aviator… or Was She?

An early female pilot and promoter who claimed several aviation “firsts” that weren’t

Blanche Scott in an early Curtiss aircraft
Daughter of a 19th-century patent medicine huckster, Blanche Scott proved herself as good a pilot as she was a shameless promoter claiming a number of early aviation “firsts” that weren’t.

Blanche Stuart Scott couldn’t stand the thought of “being a nobody and a nothing in New York’s millions.” So this only child, spoiled by wealthy parents and described as stubborn, adventurous, competitive and fiercely determined, became somebody, racking up a slew of firsts along the way. Unfortunately, some of those firsts weren’t. Some were more like close, but no cigar.

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Aloha Wanderwell: Transcontinental Adventurer

Brains, Beauty and Breeches: The Amelia Earhart of the Open Road

1920s photo of Aloha Wanderwell with her customized Model T Ford
Aloha Wanderwell with her Model T modified with a gun scabbard and sloping back that folded out, accordian-style, into a traveling darkroom. While still in her teens in the 1920s, the Canadian schoolgirl jumped into a career as a transcontinental race car driver, adventurer and daredevil gifted with with movie star looks and a shrewd sense of promotion.

In an age when few women dared to color outside the lines, an irrepressible convent schoolgirl — tall and leggy, with big blue eyes, blonde Shirley Temple curls and a pet monkey, drove Model Ts around the world, landed a seaplane on an uncharted stretch of the Amazon River, and filmed travelogues that captivated armchair travelers the world over.

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Doris Fleeson First Syndicated Female Political Columnist

From WWI War Zones to 5 Presidential Administrations, She Covered It All

World War II meeting of soldiers and U.S. journalist in the field
Aside from breaking through barriers in sexist newsrooms, Doris Fleeson went on to become a feminist champion helping other women — particularly those of color — get into the news business in an era of rampant male chauvinism.

For two decades, Washington reporter Doris Fleeson took no prisoners as she stalked the halls of Congress in her white gloves and designer hats, exposing ignorance, fraud and hypocrisy wherever she found it. One of the best and most-respected reporters of her day, she struck fear in the hearts of Congressmen, press secretaries and presidents of both parties, one of whom, John F. Kennedy, quailed at the prospect of being “Fleesonized” by her sharp prose and what Newsweek called “the sharp edge of her typewriter.”

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The Woman Behind Granny Smith Apples: Maria Ann Smith

Her Legacy is the Third Most Popular Apple in America

Maria Ann Smith, a.k.a. Granny Smith with apples
In the mid-19th century, British emigrant to Australia Maria Ann Sherwood Smith was operating a family farm when she discovered a very crisp, very tasty green apple that she cultivated and began selling in the local market. Her product became known as the “Granny Smith” apple and went on to become one of the world’s most popular fruits.

Saying something is “as American as apple pie” might work if we’re talking baseball, blue jeans or rock ‘n’ roll. But the story behind one of America’s favorite pies — and one of our most beloved baking apples — isn’t American at all. It began almost 10,000 miles away, in a compost heap near a kitchen just outside Sydney, Australia, with an orchardist named Maria Ann Sherwood Smith. Today we know her as Granny Smith.

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Socialite, Arctic Explorer, Wartime Secret Agent: Louise Boyd

Turning Fabulous Wealth and Arduous Journeys into New Scientific Knowledge

1931 photo of the head of the Franz Josef Fiord, a Russian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean
Born into fabulous San Francisco wealth in 1887, Louise Arner Boyd spent it all during a long career of organizing her own scientific expeditions to some of the planet’s most remote and foreboding frozen regions. She left behind troves of documentation that remain relevant in today’s struggle against climate change.

Louise Boyd wasn’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth. Hers was made of gold. Her grandfather made a fortune in the California Gold Rush of 1848; her father was a mining magnate with a stake in a gold mine, and president of San Francisco’s Boyd Investment Company. Her mother was a New York socialite.

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Isabella Lucy Bird’s 19th-Century Journey to Travel-Writing Fame

Mountain Climber, Cattle Driver, Caravan Organizer, Photographer and Acclaimed Book Author Isabella Lucy Bird

Isabella Lucy Bird climbed Mount Mauna Loa in Hawaii, the world's largest active volcano.
Climbing Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, and riding stallions through the Atlas Mountains of Morocco were just two of Isabella Lucy Bird’s many 19th-century travel writing adventures around the world.

In 1972, a bespectacled, shaggy-haired singer-songwriter named John Denver celebrated his love affair with Colorado in a song called “Rocky Mountain High.” But more than a century earlier, an intrepid Englishwoman named Isabella Lucy Bird beat him to it. Her book, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, was published in 1879 as a letter to her sister in England. It detailed her adventures in Colorado, became an international bestseller, and put the area now known as Rocky Mountain National Park on the map.

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