Happy Birthday Blog: Lilian Bland

Happy Birthday Blog: Lilian Bland

Born: September 20, 1878

Kent, England, UK

Known For: Pioneering Aviatrix

Usually when I do the research for these birthday blogs, I know a little bit about the woman I’m writing about. In this case, I knew nothing about Lilian Bland and I was quite surprised with what I found.

Known as “the flying feminist,” Lilian was born in England to an Irish father. After the death of her mother, her father moved the family back to his hometown of Carnmoney in Co. Antrim. From the start, Lilian stood out amongst early 20th century women. She wore pants, smoked cigarettes, and enjoyed working on motorcar engines. By 1908, she became a sports journalist and press photographer in London.

Lilian was always fascinated with birds in flight and began to study the mechanisms of flight. She started to work on gliders, eventually developing the first full-size glider. She moved from gliders to powered bi-planes and in 1910 became the first person in Ireland to fly a motorized bi-plane. She was also the first woman in the world to design, build, and fly an airplane – a feat she accomplished when Amelia Earhart was only 12 years old. 

For her pioneering spirit and willingness to do things ‘outside’ gender norms, we salute Lilian on her birthday!

You can learn more about her here.

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