Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)
Irish journalist and aviator Lilian Bland (1878-1971) never fit the mold for females of her era—she wore trousers, smoked, practiced jiujitsu, and even swore a little. Bland had a habit of adopting unconventional careers; she began as a sports and wildlife photographer for British newspapers before she was inspired by seeing Frenchman Louis Blériot make the first flight over the English Channel in 1909. Bland became the first woman to design, build, and fly her own aircraft, the Mayfly. It was wryly named because Bland said it “may fly, may not fly.” She tested and modified the glider herself; when she fitted the engine into the plane before receiving the fuel tank, she improvised a tank with a whiskey bottle and an ear trumpet. Her impatience and ingenuity paid off: just a year after she decided to build and fly a plane, she became the first woman to do so, in 1910. Bland flew over thirty feet, just a little short of the distance of Orville Wright’s first flight in 1903. Bland continued to improve and fly the Mayfly until her dad, fearing for her safety, bribed her with a new car if she’d stop flying. Since she felt the aircraft had reached its limits, she decided to accept the bribe, having made her point that women could also be aviators. She then married a Canadian man and moved to Vancouver, where her pioneering spirit led her to establish new farmland in wild territory.