Before talking about the pioneer in aviation in Brazila question: have you ever traveled on a plane piloted by a woman? How many times? I never travelled. I would have loved it, but I know it’s not very common. The profession is still very much linked to the male universe – that old story that boys are, from an early age, stimulated to certain things that girls are not, added to the very prejudice existing in the job market.
According to 2018 data from the National Civil Aviation Agency (Anac), the number of female pilots in Brazil was 1,465 while that of men was 46,556. Although the difference is still huge, there had been a 64% increase in the number of women licensed to fly as commercial airline pilots from 2015 to 2018 – as it has been two years (I didn’t find more current data), it may have increased . Which is still very little in relation to men.
So imagine what this medium was like 100 years ago, more precisely in 1922, a time when women only played roles of submission…
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Aviation pioneer in Brazil
It was when Anésia Pinheiro Machado, who was only 18 years old, became the first Brazilian aviator to take a flight.
Another aviator, Teresa de Marzo, also flew on the same day, both at the Aeroclube do Brasil, starting a trajectory for women in aviation that, until then, did not exist. However, for some reason, when they went to receive the licenses, Teresa’s was number 76 and Anesia’s was number 77. Therefore, it was not the first.
But it is her feat of being the first woman to make an interstate flight, also in 1922, from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, where she was received by authorities. On the occasion, she was honored by Santos Dumont with a letter and a gold medal that was a replica of the Saint Benedict medal that he had received from Princess Isabel. From then on, she was kept as an amulet and accompanied Anésia until the end of her life.
A curiosity is that this SP-Rio flight, which currently takes no more than 50 minutes, at the time took four days! Yes that’s right. She flew 1h30 a day and stopped to refuel and perform the necessary maintenance.
If you travel (or do anything) alone, thank these women
Brief history of Anesia
Born on June 5, 1904 in the city of Itapetininga, in the interior of the state of São Paulo, Anésia moved to the capital at the age of 17 to learn to fly.
Throughout her career, she also made the first crossing of the Andes (from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina). She was the first female skydiver in the world to jump out of a helicopter. The first Brazilian to perform an acrobatic flight. The first woman to fly with passengers. And the first female aviator to reach the southern tip of South America alone. (Information from Wikipedia)
She became known throughout the world not only for her pioneering spirit in aviation – an area in which she never stopped updating and specializing – but also for her engagement in feminist struggles and for having publicized the name of Santos Dumont (died in 1932) throughout the world. . In 1952 she was proclaimed World Dean of Women’s Aviation by the International Aeronautical Federation (FAI).
She died in 1999 in Rio de Janeiro, she was cremated and the urn with her ashes was taken to the collection of the Cabangu Museum, located in the city of Santos Dumont, in Minas Gerais. And at the Casa de Santos Dumont Museum, in Petrópolis (RJ), there are some panels telling part of her story.
It was when I was there, at the end of 2019, that I read about her. I knew it was a woman pioneer of aviation in Brazil. Honestly, I don’t remember if I’d heard of it before. But I know that since then I kept the idea of writing, because I thought it had everything to do with what I talk about so much here about travel and empowerment.
And, mainly, because she, like so many others in different areas, is yet another example of how women had their stories, even incredible ones, erased. They didn’t have the publicity they deserved, when, in fact, they should be studied in schools, that’s right!
“My desire to fly is perhaps the result of my desire, always more and more intense, to elevate myself, to get out of the banality of common living. And the unrestrained impetus of my soul, which drives me and leads me to seek the strongest emotions of flight. Ordinary life does not satisfy me; I’m always looking for something new. It is this facet of my personality, which will be said to be inconstant, that made me dedicate myself to aviation”.
(Anesia Pinheiro Machado)
Main photo: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons – Link