Sunday, February 5, 2017

Pioneer Aviator Matilde Josephine Moisant 1964 Valhalla Cemetery

Matilde Josephine Moisant (September 13, 1878 – February 5, 1964) was an American pioneer aviator. She was the second woman in the United States to get a pilot's license.[1][2]

Early life

Moisant was born on September 13, 1878 in either Manteno, Illinois or Earl Park, Indiana[3][4] to Médore Moisant and Joséphine Fortier.[5] Both places exist in records, but her license from the Aero Club of America shows Earl Park. Both parents were French Canadians.[3] Her siblings include George, John, Annie M.,[4] Charles Alfred,[6] Louise J.[7] and Eunice Moisant. John and Alfred were also aviators.[8] In 1880, the family was living in Manteno, Illinois and her father was working as a farmer.[4][9]

John B. Moisant and Mademoiselle Fifi

Aviation career

Moisant learned to fly at Alfred's Moisant Aviation School on Long Island, New York.[8] On August 17, 1911,[10] a few weeks after her friend Harriet Quimby received her pilot's certificate, Matilde Moisant became the second woman pilot certified by the Aero Club of America. She pursued a career in exhibition flying.[8] In September 1911, she flew in the air show at Nassau Boulevard airfield in Garden City, New York and, while competing against Hélène Dutrieu, Moisant broke the women's altitude world record and won the Rodman-Wanamaker trophy by flying to 1,200 feet (370 m).[8]

Matilde Moisant and Harriet Quimby Circa 1911-1912

Matilde Moisant and Harriet Quimby

Retirement from flying

Moisant stopped flying on April 14, 1912 in Wichita Falls, Texas when her plane crashed[8] (the same day that the Titanic struck an iceberg).[11] A few months later on July 1, 1912, her friend Harriet Quimby was killed when she fell from her plane.[12] Although Moisant recovered from her injuries, she gave up flying. She spent several years dividing her time between the U.S. and the family plantation in El Salvador, before returning to the Los Angeles area.[13]


Matilde Moisant died in 1964 in Glendale, California, aged 85, and was interred in the Portal of Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery, North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.[1][14]


1878 Birth in Indiana[3][4]
1880 Living in Manteno, Kankakee, Illinois[9]
1880 US Census in Manteno, Illinois
1900 US Census in California
1910 Death of John B. Moisant, her brother[8]
1911 Received pilot's certificate[8]
1911 Won Rodman-Wanamaker altitude trophy[8]
1912 Crash in Texas on April 14[8]
1920 Living in Los Angeles, California
1920 US Census in Los Angeles, California
1930 US Census in La Crescenta, California
1964 Death in California[1]
1964 Burial In Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery[14]



1. "Matilde Moisant, Early Fflyer, Dies". New York Times. 1964-02-07. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
2. "Miss Moisant Wins License. Second Woman In This Country To Prove Her Ability To Fly.". New York Times. 1911-08-14. Garden City, Long Island. August 13, 1911. With the wind eddies flattened to almost a dead calm, Miss Matilda Moisant, sister of the late John B. Moisant, who was killed at New Orleans last January, distinguished herself this morning as the second woman in this country to win a pilot's license under the rules of the Aero Club of America.
3. Lebow 2002, p. 164.
4. Rich 1998, p. 4.
5. Rich 1998, p. 1.
6. Rich 1998, p. 5.
7. Rich 1998, p. 6.
8. "Matilde Moisant". Women in Aviation and Space History. Washington, DC: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
9. "1880 federal population census: Kankakee and Kendall Counties, Illinois". FamilySearch. Washington, D. C.: National Archives and Records Administration. 21 June 1880. p. 40. NARA Series T9, Roll 219. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
10. Erisman, Fred (2009). From birdwomen to skygirls : American girls' aviation stories. Fort Worth, Tex. : TCU Press. p. 45.
11. Aldridge 2009, p. 9.
12. Courtwright 2005, p. 31.
13. Lebow 2002, p. 177.
14. "13 Pioneer Aviators". The Portal of the Folded Wings. North Hollywood, California: Pierce Brothers Valhalla Cemetery. 2011. Archived from the original on 29 October 2016.


Aldridge, Rebecca (2009). The Sinking of the Titanic. New York City, New York: Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4381-0324-2.

Courtwright, David T. (2005). Sky As Frontier: Adventure, Aviation, And Empire. College Station, Texas: Texas A and M University Press. ISBN 978-1-58544-419-9.

Lebow, Eileen F. (2002). Before Amelia: Women Pilots in the Early Days of Aviation. Washington, D. C.: Potomac Books, Inc. ISBN 978-1-57488-482-1.

Rich, Doris L. (1998). The magnificent Moisants: champions of early flight. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 978-1-56098-860-1.

Further reading

New York Times; May 11, 1911; pg. 6; "Woman in trousers daring aviator. Long Island Folk Discover That Miss Harriet Quimby Is Making Flights at Garden City. Garden City, Long Island; May 10, 1911. Rumors that there was a young woman aviator at the Moisant Aviation School here who made daily flights at 4:30 A.M. have brought many Garden City folk and townspeople from Hempstead and Mineola to the flying grounds here on several mornings. These early risers have seen a slender, youthful figure in aviation jacket and trousers of wool-backed satin, with ..."

New York Times; Oct 09, 1911; pg. 1; "Escapes sheriff in her aeroplane; Matilde Moisant Takes to the Air Before He Can Arrest Her. Matilde Moisant, who became America's most notable woman flier after seeing her brother, the late John B. Moisant, make his celebrated flight around the Statue of Liberty, narrowly missed being thrown into jail yesterday in Nassau County for going into the air in her monoplane on Sunday."

Oakes, C. M.: United States Women in Aviation Through World War I; Smithsonian Institution Press, 1978.

Rich, D. L.: The Magnificent Moisants - Champions of Early Flight; Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998. ISBN 1-56098-860-6.

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