Flying Over Union Square :
a photo essay documenting the famous Helene Dutrieu 1911 Flight
On an overcast day of March 1911, the already famous Helene Dutrieu set up for the first main flight over Manhattan. She was no beginner. After a successful career as a world champion cyclist, she had taken on aviation in 1908. In 1910, she had become the fourth woman in the world to hold an aviation license. A scandalous revelation about her not wearing a corset while flying had completed her reputation.
Her largely publicized flight over Manhattan is certainly one of the biggest sport event of the pre war era. It had been publicized in the press for weeks, and when the day finally came, Union Square was packed. There were people from all social backgrounds, incredulous and angry men, enthusiastic suffragettes (at the time, some even wanted Dutrieu to run for Presidency, despite her being Belgian… ). As much as it is a part of the cultural history of sport, this event is also important for the suffragette movement. They warmly supported Dutrieu, organized a few conferences with her, and some of them even tried to have her run for the American Presidency -despite Dutrieu having always said she did not care about politics.
Here are some of the shots taken on that occasion, from the Library of Congress archives.