header photo

Ann Kathleen Otto


Lady Overland

Here's a quiz: Who was the first American woman to fly solo? Addison Hartle was so taken with the spirited Blanche Stuart Scott when he met her at an air exhibition that he enticed his sister, Anna to Indianapolis to meet her. 

Blanche was born in Rochester, New York, probably in 1885. Her stated year of birth depended on the situation. When her father gave her a six-cylinder Cadillac, the teenager went to New York City and became, most likely, the first female in automobile sales.

 Lady Overland

On May 16, 1910, thousands lined up to watch the freckle-faced red-head leave New York City in a white and silver Lady Overland automobile. The cross country trip was sponsored by Willys-Overland of Cleveland. Each side of the auto read, 'The car, the girl, and the wide, wide, world— New York to San Francisco'. Few roadmaps and only 218 miles of paved rural roads existed in the country.

Tomboy of the Air

Forty-two days later, the Lady Overland arrived in San Francisco and Blanche was an immediate celebrity. A Glenn Curtiss company representative soon recruited her to take up flying after he convinced her it was a lot like driving an automobile.  He and the other team members knew it would pull in crowds, but they needed to convince a skeptical Curtiss. They did, and Blanche became the first Curtiss-trained woman.

"Absolute Idiots"

She evidently forgot that on her famous cross country trip the Overland became trapped in a crowd of about ten thousand people watching two aeroplanes over a field in Dayton, Ohio. Upset over the delay, Blanche said, "Anyone poking around in the clouds in a glorified kite has to be a nut...a complete and absolute idiot."

She wasn't the first certified American woman pilot. That honor would fall to Harriet Quimby because Blanche refused to take the new pilot's license exam, stating "I've proven myself already!" She failed at one thing—marriage.



After her air exhibition years, Blanche became a test pilot for Glenn Martin and then gave up flying at the start of World War I. She worked as a script writer, film producer, radio broadcaster, and aviation historian for museums. Before her death in 1970, she was the first woman to fly in a jet in 1948 as a passenger of Chuck Yeager.  


Next Time: Author Deanna Adams speaks to writing fiction and non-fiction

Go Back