Little is known about the first British woman to pilot an airplane. No, it’s not Hilda Beatrice Hewlett, although she is credited as being Britain’s first woman aviatrix to earn a pilot’s license (to learn more about Hewlett, read Britain’s First Female Aviator). Edith Maud Cook holds the honor of being Britain’s first female pilot, first British woman to fly solo, as well as made over 300 jumps as a parachutist. Unfortunately, Cook’s life was cut short due to a parachuting accident, but she accomplished much in her youth. Born in Ipswich, Suffolk on September 1, 1878, some speculate that she witnessed the ascent of Captain Dale’s hot air balloon in 1888 and thus sparked her interest in aviation. In December of 1909, after multiple parachute jumps and balloon flights, Cook attended Louis Blériot’s Flying School in Pau, France and thus became the school’s first female student. The British press followed Cook’s progress, reporting in January 1910 that she had “already succeeded in leaving the ground and so becomes the first woman of British nationality to pilot an aeroplane”.
The Suffolk Aviation Heritage Group has been working diligently to bring awareness to Britain’s heroine of aviation. In their campaign to build a memorial recognizing her feats, they promote how Cook “surmounted the mores of Edwardian society through hard work, determination and courage.” The group is currently seeking a site for a statue of Edith Cook to be built near her hometown of Ipswich. Discussions are to be held on Wednesday, May 29 by the Ipswich Borough Council.
For more information on the Suffolk Aviation Heritage Group and their involvement with this project, please go to their site: Suffolk Aviation Heritage Group