The Fearless First Female Professional Balloonist

Picture this: it’s 1811. They publish Sense and Sensibility. Ludwig von Beethoven works on his seventh symphony. Napoleon Bonaparte is the First Consul, the Emperor of France. People used horse-drawn carriages to get from one place to another. They teach women a little reading and writing. Women wear modest, long flowing dresses and are expected to have a long life of motherhood and wifehood. Manned flight, balloonomania has the world’s attention. Then the fearless first female professional balloonists took to the air. Early Life We know little about the Marie Madeleine-Sophie Armant childhood or early adulthood. She was born March 25, 1778, near La Rochelle, France. Some records claim she was tiny, nervous, and had bird like features. Most claim riding in horse carriages terrified her. She was born before the first hot-air balloon existed, but it would soon be her professional life. The Birth of Hot Air Balloons The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne, were paper manufacturers from Annonay, in Ardèche, France. In 1782, Joseph watched the fire and wondered what force lifted the sparks and smoke. He began experimenting with balloons made from paper, then sackcloth and taffeta.By 1783, Joseph and his brother devised a thirty-eight feet paper-lined […]

Four Women First to Enlist

Before 1914 it was a man’s world. Men ran the country, worked for a living, and fought the wars. A woman fighting beside men was unimaginable. Then on July 28, 1914, Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. That assassination set off a chain of events that escalated beyond their borders and into what we call World War I. And by the end of the war on November 11, 1918, more than 200,000 women were in uniform and serving their countries. On Veteran’s Day, we salute four women first to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces.  U.S. Army The Army has not officially stated who was the first woman to enlist. However, historians credit Deborah Sampson (1760-1827) as the first woman who served in the Army. An indentured servant, Sampson disguised herself as a man named Robert Shurtleff. Her story isn’t clear, but she enlisted in 1781 or 1782. She was twenty-one. Wounded several times in battle, her physician eventually discovered her gender and kept it a secret. But her physician’s niece became enamored of the young battle-scarred soldier. Not wanting to lead her on, Sampson wrote the girl a letter which ended up being […]

The Maid Who Fought Back

Hattie Canty rose from an Alabama girl to a maid to an African-American labor activist. She was the maid who fought back, the maid who eventually ensured that Las Vegas workers in the hospitality business made a living wage.  Early Life Hattie Canty was born in 1934 in  St. Stephens, Alabama. She graduated high school and married. They divorced. A single mother with two children, she moved to San Diego and took a job as a cook, then as a private maid. Las Vegas She remarried in 1961, moved to Las Vegas, and had eight more children. Her husband worked for Silver State Disposal. She stayed home to care for her ten children. By 1972 she returned to work, this time at the Thunderbird Hotel. Her husband died of lung cancer in 1975. And then she was a single mother again, this time with eight children still at home. She worked as a janitor, a maid, and then in 1979 got a job as a maid at Maxim Casino. In 1987, she earned a promotion to the better paying job of a uniformed attendant. The Union She joined the Culinary Workers Union 226, an affiliate of the Hotel Employees and […]